Know the facts about the influenza vaccine

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When is the best time to get the influenza vaccine?

The best time to get the influenza vaccine is before winter and flu season. It takes about two weeks to develop immunity following vaccination. While protection is generally expected to last for the whole season, optimal protection against influenza occurs within the first 3 to 4 months following vaccination. As the influenza virus is in the community all year it is never too late to have the vaccination.

Do I need to get the influenza vaccine every year?

You need to get an influenza vaccine every year. The vaccine changes each year to best match the latest strains of influenza. The best way to protect yourself and the people around you from influenza is to get a yearly influenza vaccine.

Can I get influenza from the influenza vaccine?

It is not possible for the influenza vaccine to give you influenza. The vaccine does not contain any live viruses. Sometimes the normal side effects of getting a vaccine feel similar to early influenza symptoms. The side effects are a sign the vaccine is triggering an immune response, which is what it is designed to do.

Is the influenza vaccine safe for pregnant women?

The influenza vaccine is safe for pregnant women. The influenza vaccine is safe to have at any stage of pregnancy and will protect both mother and baby. Getting sick with the influenza virus while pregnant can lead to serious complications. Influenza vaccination during pregnancy also protects babies after birth.

What if I get influenza while I’m pregnant?

Influenza infection during pregnancy can lead to premature delivery and even death in newborns and very young babies. It can cause serious illness and being pregnant increases the risk of serious complications for both you and your baby.

What is the best way to protect myself and my baby from the flu?

Vaccination remains the best protection pregnant women and newborns have against influenza virus. Pregnant women can have the influenza vaccine at any time during each pregnancy and they benefit from it all through the year. Influenza vaccine is recommended in every pregnancy to protect both the mother and her unborn child.

What are the common side-effects of the influenza vaccine?

The most common side-effects after influenza vaccination are redness, pain and swelling at the injection site.  Fever, sore muscles, and tiredness can also occur but usually only last one to two days after vaccination.  Side effects can mimic influenza infection but are due to the vaccine’s interaction with the immune system. Influenza vaccines currently available in Australia do not contain live virus, so cannot cause influenza.

Who can’t have the flu vaccine?

The only absolute reason for not having the influenza vaccine is anaphylaxis following a previous dose of any influenza vaccine and anaphylaxis following any vaccine component.

Influenza vaccination is generally not recommended for people with a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) whose first episode occurred with 6 weeks of receiving an influenza vaccine. Persons with a history of GBS whose first episode was not after influenza vaccination have an extremely low risk of recurrence of GBS after vaccination and the influenza vaccination is recommended.

I'm allergic to eggs, can I have the vaccine?

If you have an egg allergy you can still have the influenza vaccination. Patients with an egg allergy, including anaphylaxis, can be safely vaccinated with the influenza vaccine. Published evidence indicates the risk of anaphylaxis in patients who are allergic to eggs is very low.

I’m over 65 years of age, why should I get the influenza vaccine?

Influenza-associated mortality rates are highest among adults aged 65 years and older. Vaccinating elderly people reduces hospitalisations from influenza infections and pneumonia.

Why is there an age-specific influenza vaccine for people 65 years and older?

There is an age-specific government funded influenza vaccine available free to those aged 65 years and older. This vaccine is formulated to provide increased protection against influenza for older people. This influenza vaccine is designed specifically to increase the immune system’s response to the vaccine and provide increased protection against influenza infections for older people. There is no increase in the risk of severe adverse effects compared with other influenza vaccines however, there is an increased likelihood of redness, pain and swelling at the injection site. Fever, sore muscles, and tiredness can also occur but usually only last one to two days after vaccination. The vaccine will be available through family doctors and selected pharmacies.

What about people who are in aged care settings?

The risk of spreading influenza virus in aged care settings can be reduced by residents, staff and visitors receiving the influenza vaccine every year. Influenza vaccination of all residents and staff (including nurses, aged care assistants, reception, laundry, cleaning, kitchen and volunteers etc) can prevent illness and transmission in aged care settings.

What is the advice on the co-administration of influenza and COVID-19 vaccination?

Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) advice is that co-administration of an influenza and a COVID-19 vaccine can occur on the same day. Please check for updates to this advice on the ATAGI web page.

Page last updated on: 27 Mar 2023