Flu vaccine

Each year a seasonal flu (influenza) vaccine is developed to protect you against the most common strains of flu for that year. The flu can be very serious leading to complications such as pneumonia, myocarditis (inflammation of heart), neurologic conditions and other bacterial infections.

Vaccine recommendations

Quadrivalent influenza vaccines (QIV) are available in Australia and contain antigens of four infuenzae strains (two A strains and two B strains).

For people aged 65 years of age and older, specially formulated trivalent vaccines (TIV) are available containing three strains (two A and one B). These vaccines offer better protection for the elderly against influenza infection.     

The seasonal flu vaccine is recommended for any person aged six months of age and over who wishes to reduce the likelihood of becoming ill with the seasonal flu.

Free flu vaccine is available to pregnant women (PDF 198KB) and other eligible groups who have medical conditions that place them at an increased risk of complications from the flu. See the Annual Influenza Program for eligible groups who can access a free vaccine every year.

Although not free, the seasonal flu vaccine is also strongly recommended for:

  • people who may potentially pass on the flu to those people at high risk of complications from flu infections
  • people providing essential services (police and ambulance officers)
  • workers in other industries (corporations wishing to reduce absenteeism in the work force)


Children six months of age up to less than nine years of age receiving the flu vaccine for the first time will need to receive two doses one month apart, to ensure an adequate immune response is produced. This will ensure the child is protected and help prevent infection.

There are specific flu vaccine brands and doses recommended for children. Speak to your health professional for further information.

How the vaccine is given

Flu vaccine is given as an injection into the thigh in children under 12 months of age, and into the top of the arm in others over 12 months of age.

Possible side effects

Like any medications, the seasonal flu vaccine can have some minor and short lasting side effects.

Common side effects may include:

  • pain, redness and swelling where you were immunised
  • drowsiness, tiredness or irritability
  • muscle aches
  • low grade fever of 37 to 38 degrees Celsius.

Some side effects may appear as ‘flu like symptoms’, but all flu vaccine currently available in Australia do not contain live virus and cannot cause a flu infection.

Rare side effects may include numbness, tingling of the skin and nerve pain, Guillan-Barré (one in a million) or a severe allergic reaction.

In children less than five years of age, these side effects may be more pronounced

If you are concerned or worried, seek further advice from your doctor, immunisation provider, SA Health’s Immunisation Section or healthdirect Australia

Any unexpected event following immunisation should be reported to SA Health.

Reducing the side effects

Many of the common side effects can often be reduced by:

  • drinking extra fluids
  • resting
  • taking paracetamol as per the instructions on the packet/bottle
  • not overdressing if you are already hot.

Where to get immunised

To receive the vaccine contact your doctor, local council, community health centre or Aboriginal health centre to arrange an appointment. 

For further information on immunisation providers, see the Immunisation services page.

Frequently asked questions

Not sure if you want or need to get the annual seasonal flu vaccination? Our flu vaccination frequently asked questions can help you to decide. Questions cover why, who, when and effectiveness of the flu vaccine.

Fact versus fiction

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between fact and fiction when it comes to flu. See our flu vaccination myths to help you to better understand the flu.

Are you pregnant and not sure about the flu vaccine?

If you're pregnant and not sure if the vaccine is safe see our frequently asked questions about the flu vaccine and pregnancy.


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