The flu jab, explained

Stopping the flu saves lives. Find out why getting your flu vaccine can help you and others.

 
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Get your flu vaccine now

All people aged 6 months and over should get the flu vaccine to defend against flu viruses.

Influenza (flu) is a major cause of illness in Australia and people die of the flu each year. Some years, the current flu strains are much more serious than others.

Lifting of COVID-19-related social distancing measures in some states may allow flu viruses to spread again.

The best action you can take against flu and its complications is vaccination. If more people are vaccinated, less flu will spread in the community.

Talk to your GP about the best time for you to get your flu vaccine. Getting your vaccine at any time is better than not getting it at all.

How much a flu vaccine protects you can vary based on: 

  • your age
  • what other health conditions you have
  • how much flu virus is spreading in the community
  • how good a match the vaccine is for the main virus strains of that season.

On top of vaccination, it is good to know what else you can do to stop the spread of flu.

Should I get vaccinated during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Yes. Flu vaccination is important each year.

Flu vaccination will not stop you from getting infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. It will help you avoid the flu and its complications.

Reducing the spread of flu is a good way to lower strain on the healthcare system during the pandemic.

Practice social distancing (at least 1.5 metres) and careful hygiene when getting your flu vaccine.

You can get your flu vaccine at the same time as your COVID-19 vaccine.

Studies show that getting the flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same time is safe. It causes a good immune response in your body.

The COVID-19 vaccine does not protect you against the flu. You should still get your yearly flu vaccine.

What is the flu?

The flu is not the same as a cold. It is a serious disease. For some people, it can lead to problems such as:

  • bronchitis
  • croup
  • pneumonia
  • heart and organ damage
  • brain damage 
  • death.

Influenza is a viral disease. You cannot use antibiotics to treat it.

Signs of flu include:

  • runny nose or sneezing
  • cough or sore throat
  • fever and chills
  • headache
  • body aches
  • throwing up and having runny poo (more common in children).

Having the flu does not make you feel good, and will put you out of action, and keep you away from work or school. This can last up to a week or more. Some people are ill for much longer.

How can I tell if I have the flu?

How does flu spread?

The flu spreads when an infected person sneezes or coughs. The droplets with the virus leave their mouth or nose. 

A sneeze can hold up to 2 million virus particles, travel at 160 km/h, and spread up to 1.5 metres. These particles can land on a hard surface. People who touch the surface up to 2 days later can pick up the virus.

People are infectious and can spread the virus before they even know they are sick. They remain infectious until 5–7 days after symptoms begin. Children and people with weakened immune systems may be infectious for even longer.

Who is most at risk?

Flu has the highest risk to:

  • the very old
  • the very young
  • people who are pregnant
  • people who have underlying chronic health conditions. 

Some of these people will not be able to get a flu vaccine. It’s important that healthy Australians do what they can to stop spreading the disease.

Each year the Australian Government sets aside millions of flu vaccine doses. This is to make sure those most at risk can get the vaccine against the flu for free. These are for people who are:

  • aged 65 years and over
  • pregnant 
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over 6 months of age
  • children aged between 6 months and 5 years
  • living with a chronic condition, including heart disease, coronary artery disease, asthma and COPD, diabetes, kidney disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, HIV, cancer and more.

Speak with your doctor or clinic. Check if you or your family members are eligible. You may get the flu vaccine for free under Australian or state government programs.

Who should get the flu vaccine?

Everyone over 6 months of age should get the flu vaccine yearly. If the free vaccination program doesn't cover you, you can still get the vaccine at a fair cost.

Many employers offer free vaccination to staff, and some pharmacists can give the flu jab, as well as GPs and clinics, local council community health clinics, schools, aged care facilities and hospitals.

You may need a flu vaccine if you work in or visit an aged or disabled care facility. You may need to show proof of flu vaccination before you enter. If you get the vaccine, you can get an immunisation history statement at the Australian Immunisation Register.

Ask your GP, clinic or pharmacist where you can get your flu vaccine.

Find out more about where you can get the flu vaccine

I had a flu vaccine last year. Why do I need one this year?

Each year the flu viruses that spread in the community change. The protection from last year’s vaccine lessens over time. It takes up to 2 weeks to get full protection from this year’s flu jab.

This year the flu vaccines contain a new A strain and a new B strain. All the vaccines approved for use in Australia contain four strains of the flu virus. They contain two type A and two type B strains.

Is it safe?

All medicines can have side effects, but the flu vaccine is very safe. The chance of having a serious problem from having a vaccine is far lower than the risk of serious harm from catching the flu.

Your health professional will ask you questions before giving you the vaccine. This is to make sure that you are not at higher risk of side effects. This may be due to how you react, or other problems. 

You may get these common side effects:

  • pain, redness or swelling at the injection site
  • body aches, feeling tired or a slight fever.

These may be signs that the vaccine is causing an immune response in your body. This is what it is designed to do. The side effects will go away by themselves within a couple of days. The vaccine doesn’t have any live virus, so you can’t get the flu from the vaccine.

The side effects on you or your child may worry you. Talk to your doctor of health professional.

Does age matter?

Different vaccines are suitable for people of different ages. 

Find out more about flu vaccination for children

Influenza vaccines
available 2022

Suitable for
age group

Vaxigrip Tetra

6 months and over

FluQuadri

6 months and over

Fluarix Tetra

6 months and over

Influvac Tetra

6 months and over

Afluria Quad

5 years and over

Flucelvax Quad

2 years and over

Fluad Quad

65 years and over

Fluzone High-Dose Quad60 years and over

Your health professional can tell you which of these vaccines they are giving you.

Find out more about 2022 flu vaccines at the TGA website

What else can I do to stop the spread of flu?

Help keep our community safe and healthy by taking these simple steps.

At all times:

  • If you cough or sneeze, use a tissue. Wash your hands after throwing it out.
  • If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow or sleeve, rather than your hands.
  • Don’t share personal items such as water bottles, cups, plates and cutlery.
  • Keep your hands clean – wash with soap and water or use hand sanitiser often.

If you catch the flu:

  • Stay home from work or school. Don’t visit schools, childcare centres or aged care homes.
  • Don't share a room, bed, or utensils. This will help to stop family or household members catching it from you.
  • If you have to go out in public, think about wearing a face mask to protect others.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often.

    The good news is that taking these measures will also slow the spread of other diseases, like colds.

    Where can I find out more?