Do you want to know more about the flu vaccine? Here are the answers to some common questions.
When should I have the flu shot?
The flu vaccine is most effective within 3 to 4 months after it is given. Flu season in Australia usually runs from June to September, peaking in August, so it is important to get your flu shot before this time, in April or May.
Who should get the flu shot?
The Australian Government recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months gets the flu shot every year.
Can the flu shot give me the flu?
No. All flu vaccines for use in Australia are ‘inactivated’, which means they do not contain the live virus and you can't 'catch' the flu from the vaccine.
Sometimes people experience side effects from the flu shot that are similar to the early signs of the flu; for example, fever, tiredness and muscle aches. These side effects can start within a few hours of being vaccinated and sometimes last 1 or 2 days. They usually go away on their own once your body has mounted an immune response to the vaccine — which will protect you from the influenza virus. In 2017, about 1 in 20 Australians who received a flu vaccine reported side effects.
Sometimes I get the flu despite having had the flu shot — why is this and why should I bother?
The influenza vaccine can prevent illness in about 50 to 60% of healthy adults under the age of 65, although this varies year by year. Because the vaccine is not 100% effective some people may still catch the virus after getting vaccinated, but the risk is reduced.
Although most people who get the flu recover without lasting effects, the flu can be very serious in some people and cause hospitalisation or even death. It is not possible to predict who will be severely affected. The flu vaccine both reduces your chances of getting the flu, and may reduce the severity of the symptoms, so it is still important to get vaccinated.
Are there different vaccines for children, adults, pregnant women and the elderly?
Generally, children, adults and pregnant women get the same vaccine to protect against the flu. However, if your child is under 9 years old and has not been vaccinated before, they will need to get 2 doses of the vaccine, at least 4 weeks apart, in their first year.
In 2018, 2 new flu vaccines (Fluzone High-Dose and Fluad) became available for people aged 65 years and over. These vaccines are not available for people younger than 65.
Is it OK to get the flu vaccine more than once in the same flu season?
Studies have not shown any benefit for adults getting more than 1 dose of vaccine in the same flu season. Only children under 9 years old who have not been vaccinated for the flu before should receive a second dose of vaccine.
For more information on the flu vaccine, go to the Department of Health website or call the National Immunisation Hotline on 1800 671 811.
Last reviewed: April 2019