The Flu Shot – Things I Need To Know

Who Should Have The Flu Shot?

The Australian Government recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months has a flu vaccination every year. It’s difficult to predict who will catch influenza (‘the flu’), or who will become seriously ill from it. The flu can require hospitalisation and can even be fatal. Getting vaccinated against the flu helps protect both you and the people around you. It’s particularly important to protect vulnerable people in the community who can’t be vaccinated, such as babies who are younger than 6 months and adults with low immunity.

When Should I Have The Flu Shot?

Your immunity is strongest and most effective for 3 to 4 months after you are vaccinated. Flu season in Australia usually runs from June to September, peaking in August, so it is important to get your flu shot in April or May.

Does The Flu Vaccine Protect Against COVID-19?

The flu vaccine won’t protect you against COVID-19 (coronavirus), but it will reduce your risk of influenza — which leads to thousands of hospitalisations each year. By getting the flu vaccine, you can reduce the strain on the health service.

Can The Flu Shot Give Me The Flu?

No. All flu vaccines used in Australia are ‘inactivated’, which means they do not contain the live flu virus — so you can’t catch the flu from the vaccine.

Less than 1 in 6 people experience side effects from the flu shot that are similar to the early signs of the flu. These may include fevertiredness and muscle aches. These side effects can start within a few hours of vaccination and sometimes last for 1 to 2 days. They usually go away on their own, once your body has developed an immune response to the vaccine, which will protect you from the flu virus.

It’s important to remember that the side effects show the vaccine is triggering an immune response, which is what it’s designed to do.

Sometimes I Get The Flu Despite Having Had The Flu Shot — Why Should I Bother?

Flu vaccination prevents illness in up to 6 in 10 healthy adults under the age of 65. Because the vaccine is not effective in absolutely every case, some people may still catch the virus after having the flu shot. But the risk of illness is still reduced.

Although most people who get the flu recover without lasting effects, the flu can be very serious in some people and may require hospitalisation. In some cases, it can even be fatal. It’s not possible to predict who will be severely affected.

Vaccination against the flu both reduces your chances of getting it and the severity of the symptoms if you do. So it’s still important to have the shot.

Do Children, Adults, Pregnant Women And The Elderly Need A Different Vaccine?

Generally, children, adults and pregnant women get the same vaccine to protect them 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.

Two enhanced flu vaccines are available for older people in 2022. Fluad Quad is available for people aged 65 and older. Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent is available for people aged 60 and older.

Can I Get The Flu Vaccine If I Have An Egg Allergy?

The influenza vaccine is typically grown in eggs. But the traces of egg protein that remain after the vaccine is made are so tiny that the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) says both adults and children with egg allergy can be safely vaccinated against the flu. The risk of anaphylaxis after vaccination is very low, estimated at 1.35 cases per 1 million doses.

It is rare for people with egg allergy to experience other side effects, such as hives, wheezing, vomiting or abdominal pain, after getting the flu shot. If you are concerned, ask your doctor if you, or your child, can be observed by staff for 30 minutes after receiving the vaccine (instead of the recommended 15 minutes).

Can I Get The Flu Vaccine If I Have A Latex Allergy?

Influenza vaccines used in Australia don’t contain latex and are safe for people with a latex allergy or sensitivity. While the product information for Fluarix Tetra and Fluad Quad state that some presentations of the vaccine cannot be considered latex-free, these presentations are actually not supplied in Australia.

What Is The Cell-Based Influenza Vaccine And Is It Better Than Egg-Based Vaccines?

The production of influenza vaccines traditionally involves hen’s eggs. However, there is a different method for cell-based influenza vaccines — such as Flucelvax Quad, the only cell-based flu vaccine approved for use in Australia. It’s approved for use in people aged 9 years and older but has not been added to the National Immunisation Program (NIP) schedule.

Studies show that cell-based vaccines have a similar efficacy and safety profile to standard (egg-based) flu vaccines. Normally, neither type is recommended over the other.

However, standard flu vaccines are preferred for use in pregnancy because a large body of evidence supports their safety for pregnant women. The safety of cell-based flu vaccines during pregnancy hasn’t been assessed.

This information, and more, was published by Health Direct