Healthy living

Influenza (flu) vaccine

  • Influenza, commonly known as flu, is a highly contagious disease caused by the influenza virus.
  • Vaccination is the best protection against influenza.
  • Everyone is encouraged to get an influenza vaccine each year.
  • Some people are more at risk of serious health complications if they get influenza and can get a free influenza vaccine. (Refer to 'Who can receive the free influenza vaccine? below)
When is the best time to get the influenza vaccine?

For best protection against influenza, people are strongly advised to get the influenza vaccine every year.

This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic it is advised to get the influenza vaccine as soon as it is available.

Note: after vaccination it can take up to 2 weeks to develop protection.

It is never too late to get the influenza vaccine.

Who can receive the free influenza vaccine?

Everyone is encouraged to get an influenza vaccine every year.

However, some groups of people are at higher risk of serious complications from influenza and are eligible to receive the free government-funded influenza vaccine:

Note: The vaccine is free however you may be charged a consultation fee. Check costs when making an appointment.

I'm healthy and rarely get sick. Why do I need the influenza vaccine?

Protect yourself and others

Even healthy people can get very sick from influenza. Most healthy people who get influenza are quite sick for a short time, but generally recover well.

However, as influenza is easily spread by coughing, sneezing, or touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your mouth or nose, you can spread germs to others. This includes those who are at serious risk of complications if they get influenza such as young children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with chronic medical conditions. If they get influenza, complications may include high fever, pneumonia, worsening of other illnesses and in some cases death.

By getting vaccinated each year, you help to protect these vulnerable people from getting sick with influenza, as well as those who are unable to be vaccinated themselves (e.g. children under 6 months are too young to get an influenza vaccine).

If you don’t catch influenza, you can’t pass it on to others.

Note: In addition to getting an influenza vaccine, there are also other things you can do to prevent the spread of germs to protect yourself and others from viruses.

Is there anyone who shouldn't get the vaccine?

The only reason not to have an influenza vaccine is following a severe (anaphylactic) reaction to a previous dose of influenza vaccine, or to any component of any vaccine. Allergic reactions to an influenza vaccine are rare. Speak with your GP or immunisation provider for advice.

If you are unwell, talk to your doctor about whether to reschedule your vaccination.

Also tell your healthcare provider if you have ever had Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS, a severe illness causing muscle weakness). Your doctor will help you decide whether the vaccine is recommended for you.

People with a history of GBS have an increased likelihood in general of developing GBS again, and the chance of them coincidentally developing the syndrome following influenza vaccination may be higher than in persons with no history of GBS. Diagnosis of GBS is complex and must be made by a physician.

Is the influenza vaccine safe?

Yes. All vaccines available in Australia pass strict safety testing before being approved for use by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) (external site). AusVaxSafety is a national program to monitor the type and rate of reactions to each year's new influenza vaccine. Learn more at NCIRS (external site).

Learn more about vaccination safety.

You cannot get influenza from having an influenza vaccine as it is made from the killed virus, not living viruses.

It is possible to be exposed to influenza viruses shortly before getting vaccinated or during the two week period after vaccination that it takes the body to develop immune protection. This exposure may result in you becoming ill with influenza before protection from the vaccine takes effect.

People may also mistake symptoms of other respiratory viruses for influenza symptoms. The influenza vaccine only protects against influenza disease, not other illnesses.

Where can I get vaccinated?

The influenza vaccine is available from immunisation providers including GPs, community immunisation clinics and Aboriginal Medical Services.

A trial program (external site) currently allows pharmacies to provide the free influenza vaccine to people aged 65 years and over.

For further information, contact your immunisation provider.

What can I do if I have an adverse reaction following influenza vaccination?

Some people experience common reactions such as pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, low grade temperature, muscle aches and/or drowsiness. Any medicine, including the influenza vaccine, can have potentially serious side effects, such as severe allergic reaction. However the risk of this is extremely small.

Learn more about the possible side effects of immunisation.

Seek medical advice if symptoms continue or get worse.

Western Australian Vaccine Safety Surveillance System

The Western Australian Vaccine Safety Surveillance System (WAVSS) is the central reporting service in WA for any significant adverse events following immunisation.

If you have experienced an adverse reaction to a vaccine:

More information

Where to get help

  • For emergency or life-threatening conditions, visit an emergency department or dial triple zero (000) to call an ambulance
  • See your doctor
  • Visit a GP after hours
  • Visit healthdirect (external site) or call 1800 022 222
  • Phone the Immunise Australia Hotline on 1800 671 811

Last reviewed: 24-04-2020
Acknowledgements

Public Health


This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

Where can I get my vaccine?