The flu jab, explained

Stopping the flu saves lives. Find out why getting your flu vaccination is good for you and for others.


Get your flu jab now

Flu vaccination is recommended for all people aged 6 months and over to defend against flu viruses.

Influenza is a major cause of illness in Australia and people die of the flu every year. Some years, the prevailing flu strains are much more severe than others, and this is unpredictable.

Relaxing of COVID-19-related social distancing restrictions in some states may allow flu viruses to recirculate.

The most important 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. Being vaccinated at any time is better than not being vaccinated at all.

The level of protection provided by a flu vaccine can vary according to a person’s age, what other health conditions they may have, how much flu virus is circulating in the community and how good a match the vaccine is for the virus strains that are the most prominent for that season.

So in addition to vaccination it is important 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 every year.

Flu vaccination will not prevent you from getting infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, but it will help you avoid influenza and its complications.

Minimising the spread of flu is a good way to reduce strain on the health care system during the pandemic.

Continue to practise social distancing (at least 1.5 metres) and careful hygiene when getting your flu vaccination.

You need to leave at least 7 days between your flu vaccination and your COVID-19 vaccination.

In some situations, a shorter interval between the COVID-19 and flu vaccine is acceptable.

Find out more about waiting periods for these vaccinations 

What is the flu?

The flu is not the same as a cold. It is a serious disease that for some people can lead to complications like bronchitis, croup, pneumonia, heart and organ damage, brain damage and death.

Influenza is a viral disease so antibiotics cannot be used to treat it.

Flu symptoms include:

  • runny nose or sneezing
  • cough or sore throat
  • fever and chills
  • headache
  • body aches
  • vomiting and diarrhoea (more common in children).

Having the flu is a miserable experience, and will put you out of action, and keep you away from work or school for a week or more. Some people are ill for much longer.

How can I tell if I have the flu?

How does flu spread?

Influenza spreads when an infected person sneezes or coughs and droplets containing the virus leave their mouth or nose. 

A sneeze can contain up to 2 million virus particles, travel at 160 km/h, and spread up to 1.5 metres. When these land on surfaces, the virus can be picked up by people who touch the surface up to 2 days later.

People are infectious and can spread the virus before they even know they are sick, and 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 is most dangerous to the very old, the very young, and people who are pregnant or have underlying chronic health conditions. 

Some of these people will not be able to be vaccinated, so it’s important that healthy Australians do everything they can to avoid spreading the disease.

Every year the Australian Government sets aside millions of influenza vaccine doses to make sure those most at risk can be vaccinated 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.

Check with your doctor or clinic to see if you or your family members are eligible for free vaccination under Australian or state government programs.

Who should be vaccinated against the flu?

Annual vaccination is recommended for everyone over 6 months of age. If you aren’t covered under the free vaccination program, you can still be vaccinated for a reasonable 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.

If you work in or visit an aged or disabled care facility, you may be required to show evidence of flu vaccination before you can enter the facility. If you have been vaccinated, you can get an immunisation history statement at the Australian Immunisation Register.

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

Find out more about where you can be vaccinated against the flu

I had a flu vaccination last year, why do I need another one?

Every year the flu viruses that circulate in the community change, and the protection from last year’s vaccine diminishes over time. It takes up to 2 weeks to get full protection from this year’s flu jab.

This year the influenza vaccines contain new influenza A strains. All the vaccines approved for use in Australia contain four strains of influenza virus – two type A and two type B strains.

Is it safe?

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

Your health professional will ask you questions before giving you the vaccine, to make sure that you are not at higher risk of side effects, because of allergies or other problems. 

You may experience these common side effects:

  • pain, redness or swelling at the injection site
  • body aches, tiredness or slight fever

These may be signs that the vaccine is triggering your immune response, which is what it is designed to do. They will go away by themselves within a couple of days. The vaccine doesn’t contain any live virus, so you can’t get the flu from being vaccinated.

Talk to your doctor or health professional if you are worried about side effects on you or your child.

Does age matter?

Different vaccines are suitable for people of different ages. 

Find out more about flu vaccination for children

Influenza vaccines
available 2021

Suitable for
age group

Vaxigrip Tetra

6 months and over


6 months and over

Fluarix Tetra

6 months and over

Influvac Tetra

3 years and over

Afluria Quad

5 years and over

Flucelvax Quad

9 years and over

Fluad Quad

65 years and over

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

Find further information about 2021 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 and wash your hands after disposing of it.
  • 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 several times a day.

If you catch the flu:

  • Stay home from work or school. Don’t visit schools, childcare centres or aged care homes.
  • Use a separate room, bed, and utensils so that family or household members don't catch it from you.
  • If you have to go out in public, consider wearing a face mask to protect others.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often.

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

    Where can I find out more?