Flu vaccine frequently asked questions
- Why is the flu vaccine recommended?
- Who should be vaccinated?
- Am I eligible for the free flu vaccine?
- Why are Aboriginal children eligible for the free flu vaccine?
- What if I am not eligible for the free flu vaccine?
- Where can I get vaccinated?
- How much will the vaccine cost?
- When should I be vaccinated?
- How often do I need to be vaccinated?
- How effective is the flu vaccine?
- Is the flu vaccine safe?
- Is the flu vaccine safe if I'm pregnant?
- Are there any side effects from the vaccine?
- What should I do if I experience any side effects?
- What do I do if I have an unexpected reaction to the flu vaccine?
- Should I have the vaccination if I previously suffered an immediate allergic reaction?
- Why do some children have stronger reactions to the flu vaccine than adults?
- My child is under the age of nine. How many doses of seasonal flu vaccine are needed this year?
Annual vaccination against seasonal flu can reduce your chances of getting the flu and can also reduce the severity of flu symptoms if you do catch the flu.
The seasonal flu vaccination is recommended every year for any person aged six months or older who wishes to reduce the likelihood of becoming ill with flu.
Under the Annual Influenza Program the flu vaccine is free and strongly recommended for selected groups.
To see if you are eligible for a free vaccine, see the Annual Influenza Program page.
From 2015 the flu vaccine is free for all Aboriginal children aged six months up to 5 years of age due the increased risk of serious disease and complications in this population.
If you are not eligible to receive a free flu vaccine, your doctor can write a prescription for you and you can collect the vaccine from your local pharmacy for a small fee. The doctor may also charge a consultation fee.
It is recommended you collect the vaccine immediately prior to your doctor’s appointment as the vaccine needs to be kept between two degrees Celsius and eight degrees Celsius at all times to be effective.
The cost of the flu vaccine can range from $10 to $25. Contact your doctor, local council or pharmacy for more information.
The best time for you to be vaccinated against the flu is in autumn (between April and May), before the flu season starts. The vaccination usually takes up to two weeks to work.
It is recommended that you be vaccinated against flu every year as the different strains of flu virus can change from year to year. This protects you against the most recent flu virus strains that maybe around.
Even if the main flu strains do not change, yearly vaccination is still recommended as immunity from flu vaccination is not long lasting.
No vaccine is 100% effective but evidence shows that the flu vaccine provides a good level of protection in healthy people. The vaccination usually takes up to two weeks to be effective and lasts for up to a year.
No vaccine is 100% safe but the viruses in the flu vaccine are inactivated (killed) and cannot give you the flu. If you develop the flu soon after having the vaccine, generally it is because you have been infected before the vaccine has had time to take effect.
After the vaccination, you may still get the flu but you will experience a milder case than those who were not vaccinated. You may also experience mild flu-like symptoms for up to 48 hours after the flu shot as your immune system responds to the vaccine.
If you have any allergies or are concerned about the potential side effects of the flu vaccine please discuss this with your doctor or immunisation provider before you have the vaccination. Immunisation providers are trained to ask about potential allergic reactions before giving the vaccine and to treat such reactions if they occur following the vaccination.
The flu vaccine is recommended in all stages of pregnancy and has been given safely to millions of pregnant women across the world. Studies looking at the effects of pregnant women receiving the seasonal flu vaccination indicate no negative effects on pregnant women or their babies.
Please see our flu vaccine and pregnancy frequently asked questions for more information.
Like any medication, some people may experience an unexpected reaction to the flu vaccine. Common side effects following flu vaccination include:
- pain, redness and swelling at the injection site
- low grade temperature
- headache or muscle aches
- drowsiness or tiredness
- generally feeling unwell
- a temporary small lump at the injection site.
Most side effects are minor, last a short time, resolve without any treatment and do not lead to any long-term problems. Generally, mild reactions begin within six to 12 hours. As with any medication, very rarely will you have a severe allergic reaction which will usually occur within 15 minutes of receiving a vaccine. Due to this, it is important for you to wait for 15 minutes after receiving your vaccine before leaving.
Your vaccine provider will advise you of the potential side effects of having the flu vaccine and what you should do if you have a reaction.
In most cases these side effects will be mild and resolve without any treatment.
If an infant or child develops a fever above 38.5 degrees Celsius following the flu vaccination, paracetamol can be given. If a high temperature above 38.5 degrees Celsius persists, contact your doctor or seek medical assistance.
If you are concerned or unsure about any symptoms you or your child are experiencing following the flu vaccination you can:
- contact SA Health's Immunisation Section
- call healthdirect Australia 24 hour health information advice
- seek immediate medical attention and advice from your doctor
- go to a hospital Emergency Department or
- call an ambulance by phoning 000.
If you are unsure discuss this with your doctor or immunisation provider.
Children tend to have stronger reactions to the flu vaccine than adults due to their smaller body and surface area. Your child (especially if under five year of age) may develop higher body temperatures than adults following the flu vaccine which, if left untreated can sometimes result in a febrile convulsion. If an infant or child develops a fever above 38.5 degrees Celsius following vaccination, paracetamol can be given. If a high temperature above 38.5 degrees Celsius persists, contact your doctor or seek medical assistance.
The number of flu vaccines that your child will need to have will depend on if your child has previously had the flu vaccination and how many times. Any child who is younger than 9 years of age and has:
- never had the flu vaccine before will need to have two doses at four weeks apart this year
- previously had two doses in the same year will need just one this year.