Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is caused by a virus and mainly spreads from person to person through the air by coughing, sneezing or talking, and by touching a person’s hands, surface or object.

The flu virus infects your respiratory system such as the nose, throat and sometimes your lungs. It differs from a cold as symptoms such as fever, sore throat and muscle aches develop suddenly and last about a week. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can cause complications such as pneumonia and bronchitis which require hospitalisation. Sometimes these complications can lead to death.

Flu can also make some underlying medical conditions worse. There is a need to get vaccinated every year because the viruses circulating in the community continually change and immunity from the vaccine does not last a long time. It is especially important that people at risk be vaccinated each year.

4 things you might not know about the flu shot!

  1. There is no live virus in the flu shot.
  2. The composition of the vaccine changes every year.
  3. The flu shot is safe for pregnant women at all stages of their pregnancy.
  4. CSL Fluvax® is not recommended for children under 5 years of age.

Can I receive free flu vaccine under the National Immunisation Program?

The flu vaccine is recommended for anyone from 6 months of age who wishes to be protected against influenza. Free flu vaccine is available for the following people:

  • Anyone aged 65 years and over
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from 15 years of age
  • Pregnant women
  • Anyone over 6 months of age with one or more of the following medical conditions:
    • heart disease
    • severe asthma
    • chronic lung condition
    • chronic illness requiring medical follow-up or hospitalisation in the past year
    • diseases of the nervous system
    • impaired immunity
    • diabetes
    • Children aged 6 months to 10 years who are on long-term aspirin therapy

I received a flu shot last year, do I still need to get one this year?

Yes. Immunity decreases over time and flu vaccination is needed each year to ensure you continue to be protected. Vaccination is recommended in early autumn to allow time for immunity to be strengthened before the flu season starts.

Are there any side effects with the flu vaccine?

Vaccines, like other medicines, can have side effects, however the majority of side effects are minor.

Common side effects following flu vaccination include soreness, redness, pain and swelling at the injection site, fever and malaise. These side effects are usually mild and resolve within a few days, usually without any treatment. You should contact your doctor if you are concerned or your child has a persistent high temperature.

There may be a small increase in the risk of fever when a child receives both the flu vaccine and the pneumococcal disease vaccine (13vPCV) at the same time. These two vaccines can be given separately, with a least a three day interval between them, to reduce the likelihood of fever. If you are concerned, you should discuss this option with your doctor or immunization provider.

I heard there were problems with the flu vaccine for children in 2010?

In 2010, increased rates of high fever and febrile convulsions were reported in children under 5 years of age after they were vaccinated with the CSL Fluvax®vaccine. CSL Fluvax® has not been registered for use in this age group since late 2010 and therefore should not be given to children under 5 years of age.

Four other influenza vaccines are recommended for use in this age group: Agrippal, Fluarix, Influvac and Vaxigrip. None of these flu vaccines has been found to be associated with febrile convulsions above the expected rate of less than 1 per 1000 doses in this age group.

Is is safe for me to get the flu shot if I am pregnant?

Yes. The flu vaccine can be safely given during any stage of pregnancy. Pregnant women are at increased risk of severe disease or complications from the flu. Vaccinating against flu during pregnancy can not only protect pregnant women but provide ongoing protection to a newborn baby for the first six months after birth.

Is it safe for me, as an adult, to get the flu shot?

Yes. All flu vaccines currently available in Australia are safe to use in adults. All vaccines in Australia must pass stringent safety testing before being approved for use by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Further information on the safety of vaccines is available from the Therapeutic Goods Administration website.

What are the possible side effects from the flu shot?

Common side effects following seasonal flu vaccination include soreness, redness, pain and swelling at the injection site, fever, vomiting and malaise. These side effects are usually mild and resolve within a few days, usually quickly without any treatment. Generally, reactions may occur within a few hours following vaccination and may last 1 to 2 days.

Some side effects may mimic flu infection, but all flu vaccines do not contain live virus and so do not cause you to get influenza.

Side effects such as hives or anaphylaxis are rare. People with a history of an allergic reaction to egg protein may still receive flu vaccine after talking to your doctor.

If I get a side effect after I have a flu vaccine, where can I report it?

Side effects or adverse events following any immunisation can be reported to the Therapeutic Goods Administration by calling the Adverse Medicine Events Line on 1300 134 237 or lodging a report online at the TGA website, via the ‘report a problem link’. You can also report adverse events to your doctor here at your Divine Medical Centre, hospital, health centre or to your state and territory health authority.

To organise your flu shot in 2017 please contact our reception on 07 4122 1111 Maryborough or 07 4194 5555 Hervey Bay. We also offer travel and childhood immunisations. For any advice on immunisations, please do not hesitate to talk to your doctor or the receptionists here at Divine Medical & Cosmetic Skin Centre.