Influenza (also called flu) is a very contagious infection of the airways. It affects people of all ages but is especially serious for young babies, young children, pregnant women and people with underlying medical conditions. It can require hospitalisation and can cause death.
Vaccination is a safe and effective way to protect you from serious disease caused by influenza.
Influenza vaccines are given each year to protect against the most common strains of the virus.
Who should get vaccinated against influenza
Yearly influenza vaccination is recommended for people aged 6 months and over. Anyone who wants to protect themselves against influenza can talk to their vaccination provider about getting vaccinated.
The Australian Immunisation Handbook recommends influenza vaccination for specific groups.
The influenza vaccine is free under the National Immunisation Program for:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 6 months and over
- Children aged 6 months to under 5 years
- Pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy
- People aged 65 years or over.
- People aged 6 months or over who have medical conditions that mean they have a higher risk of getting serious disease:
- cardiac disease
- chronic respiratory conditions
- chronic neurological conditions
- immunocompromising conditions
- diabetes and other metabolic disorders
- renal disease
- haematological disorders
- children aged six months to 10 years on long term aspirin therapy.
Your vaccination provider will advise if you or your child have a specified medical risk condition. See also Immunisation for people with medical conditions.
Children under nine years receiving their influenza vaccination for the first time require two doses of vaccine, spaced by a minimum of one month.
In some states and territories, influenza vaccines may also be provided for free to other people not listed above. Speak to your vaccination provider or contact your state or territory Department of Health to find out.
People who are not eligible for a free vaccine can purchase the vaccine from their vaccination provider.
Aged care workers may also be required to get an influenza vaccine. Learn more about responsibilities of residential aged care providers.
People with allergies
As the egg based influenza vaccines under the NIP only contains minute traces of egg protein, people with egg allergy, including a history of anaphylaxis, can be safely vaccinated with influenza vaccines. If you have an egg allergy, please discuss this with your immunisation provider.
How to get vaccinated against influenza
Influenza vaccines come as a single vaccine that covers several strains of the flu virus. It is given as an needle, usually in the upper arm. It is important to get the right vaccine for your age. Your vaccination provider can tell you which vaccine they will use for you or your child's influenza vaccination.
Influenza vaccines include:
- VaxiGrip Tetra* – for people aged 6 months to 64 years
- Fluarix Tetra* – for people aged from 6 months to 64 years
- Afluria Quad* – for people aged 5 years to 64 years
- Fluad Quad* – recommended for people aged 65 years and over
- Influvac Tetra
- Flucelvax Quad
- Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent.
* Indicates National Immunisation Program vaccine.
These quadrivalent vaccines include the following strains:
- an A/Sydney/5/2021 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus
- an A/Darwin/9/2021 (H3N2)-like virus
- a B/Austria/1359417/2021 (B/Victoria lineage)-like virus
- a B/Phuket/3073/2013 (B/Yamagata lineage)-like virus
The Therapeutic Goods Administration website provides product information and consumer medicine information
When to get the influenza vaccine
New season influenza vaccines under the NIP are expected to be available from April. Timing may be different for your local area. Check with your vaccination provider to find out when they will have the National Immunisation Program vaccines available and when you will be able to book in to have the vaccine.
Annual influenza vaccine should occur anytime from April onwards to be protected for the peak flu season, which is generally June to September. The highest level of protection occurs in the first 3 to 4 months following vaccination.
However, it is never too late to vaccinate since influenza can circulate in the community all year round.
Pregnant women should receive the vaccine at any stage during pregnancy.
Influenza vaccines can be given on the same day with a COVID-19 vaccine. There is no set timeframe to wait between having a COVID-19 infection and then having the influenza vaccine. Once you are feeling well and have no fever, you may receive an influenza vaccine.
Where to get vaccinated
You can get your vaccine from a range of vaccination providers. Find out where and more about your vaccination visit at getting vaccinated.
Not all of these vaccination providers will have the free National Immunisation Program vaccines. Check with your preferred vaccination provider to find out:
- about the specific vaccines they can provide
- when they will be available, and when you can book in to have the vaccine
- if there is a consultation or administration fee to get the free vaccines.
Possible side effects of influenza vaccination
You may experience minor side effects following vaccination. Most reactions are mild and last no more than a couple of days and you will recover without any problems.
Common side effects of influenza vaccines include:
- drowsiness or tiredness
- muscle aches
- pain, redness and swelling at injection site
- occasionally an injection-site lump (may last many weeks - no treatment needed)
- mild fever.
Talk to your vaccination provider about possible side effects of the influenza vaccines, or if you or your child have side effects that worry you.
The Consumer Medicine Information available on the Therapeutic Goods Administration website lists the ingredients and side effects of each vaccine.
Learn more about the possible side effects of vaccination