The Flu Shot – Things I Need To Know

As the flu season approaches, we are getting more enquiries about this year’s influenza vaccine and questions about the importance of getting a flu shot.  Here, our occupational health experts share what you need to know about flu vaccination and why it’s so important.

Who should have the flu shot?

The Australian Government advises everyone aged 6 months and older to get a flu vaccine every year. It’s hard to predict who will get influenza or experience severe symptoms. The flu can lead to hospitalisation or even death. By getting vaccinated, you can protect yourself and those around you. This is especially important for vulnerable people who can’t get vaccinated, such as infants under 6 months old and adults with weak immune systems.

When should I have the flu shot?

To ensure you are protected during flu season in Australia, we recommend getting your flu shot before April or May. Your body’s immunity is at its strongest and most effective for about 3 to 4 months after you receive a flu vaccine. In Australia, flu season typically occurs from June to September and reaches its highest point in August. 

Will the flu vaccine protect me against COVID-19?

Although the flu vaccine doesn’t provide protection against COVID-19 (coronavirus), it does lower your risk of getting the flu, which results in numerous hospitalisations every year. By getting vaccinated for the flu, you can help alleviate the burden on the healthcare system.

Can getting the flu shot actually give me the flu?

No, it cannot. All flu vaccines used in Australia are considered “inactivated,” which means they don’t contain the live flu virus. Therefore, you cannot catch the flu from the vaccine.

While fewer than 1 in 6 people may experience side effects similar to early signs of the flu, such as fever, tiredness, and muscle aches, they are usually temporary and typically last for only 1 to 2 days. These side effects occur as a result of the vaccine stimulating an immune response, which is what it’s intended to do. 

It’s important to keep in mind that these side effects indicate that the vaccine is working correctly and your body is developing immunity to the flu virus.

Sometimes I still get the flu even after getting the flu shot. Why should I bother getting vaccinated?

Getting the flu shot can prevent illness in up to 6 out of 10 healthy adults under the age of 65. While the vaccine may not be entirely effective in every case, it still reduces the risk of getting sick.

While most people who contract the flu recover without any lasting effects, it can be a severe illness for some and may require hospitalisation. In some instances, it can even be fatal. It’s impossible to predict who will be seriously impacted.

Receiving the flu vaccine not only reduces your chances of getting the flu but also decreases the severity of symptoms if you do contract it. Therefore, it’s crucial to get vaccinated.

Are there different flu vaccines for children, adults, pregnant women, and the elderly?

Generally, the same flu vaccine is administered to children, adults, and pregnant women to protect them from the flu. However, children under the age of 9 who have never been vaccinated before will require two doses of the vaccine, spaced at least four weeks apart, during their first year.

In 2022, two enhanced flu vaccines are available for older individuals. Fluad Quad is recommended for people aged 65 and older, while Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent is intended for those aged 60 and older.

Can I still get the flu vaccine if I have an egg allergy?

Although the flu vaccine is traditionally grown in eggs, the amount of egg protein in the vaccine is so small that the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) assures that both children and adults with egg allergies can safely receive the flu vaccine. The risk of anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction, following vaccination is extremely low, estimated to be only 1.35 cases per one million doses.

People with egg allergies are rarely affected by other side effects, such as hives, wheezing, vomiting or abdominal pain, after receiving the flu vaccine. If you are worried, you can ask your doctor if you or your child can be observed by staff for 30 minutes after vaccination instead of the recommended 15 minutes.

Is it safe to get the flu shot if I have a latex allergy? 

Yes, you can safely get the flu vaccine in Australia even if you have a latex allergy or sensitivity. This is because the influenza vaccines used in Australia do not contain latex. Although some presentations of the Fluarix Tetra and Fluad Quad vaccines are stated to not be latex-free in their product information, these presentations are not actually available in Australia.

What is the cell-based influenza vaccine and is it better than egg-based vaccines?

Traditional flu vaccines are produced using hen’s eggs, but there is another method that uses cell-based technology. Flucelvax Quad is an example of a cell-based flu vaccine that has been approved for use in Australia in individuals aged 9 and older, but it is not currently included in the National Immunisation Program (NIP).

Research suggests that cell-based vaccines have a similar effectiveness and safety profile as standard (egg-based) flu vaccines, so neither type is recommended over the other in general. For pregnant women, standard vaccines are still preferred thanks to the large body of evidence supporting their safety during pregnancy. The safety of cell-based flu vaccines during pregnancy has not yet been assessed.

Are workplace flu vaccinations beneficial?  

Yes! There are many benefits to workplace flu vaccinations, so if your employer makes them available to you, you should take advantage of this.  

If you are an employer, you are strongly encouraged to support the health and wellbeing of your employees every year by scheduling onsite flu shots.  

Ready to schedule your workplace flu vaccinations? Contact our partner Healthworks about scheduling on site flu shots for your employees today.

This information was made available by Health Direct.