Should you get the flu shot this year?

By HBF

4 minutes

23 April 2021

A woman receiving the flu vaccine from a healthcare worker

Experts say the flu vaccine is your best defence against the flu – and it helps reduce the spread to people around you.1 Let’s untangle some of the myths and facts.

The information in this article has been sourced from the Australian Government Department of Health’s resources on the influenza vaccine

Let’s face it, the flu is never on anyone’s wish list.

For many people, the flu virus (or influenza) can feel like a bad cold – painful, grotty and an unwelcome interruption to your life. It can cause symptoms like fever, aches and chills, a sore throat, headache, dry cough and runny nose.1

But the flu can also cause more serious illness, with complications like pneumonia sometimes leading to hospitalisation. In some cases, it can even be life-threatening.1

That’s why reducing the spread of the flu is essential – and experts say getting your flu shot each year is one of the best things you can do to help. 

Why get the flu shot?

The COVID-19 pandemic has given us all a masterclass in reducing the spread of germs. These good hygiene practices – hand washing, cleaning surfaces, staying home when sick – are also important for preventing the spread of the flu. 

But for the best protection against the flu, the Australian Government recommends the flu vaccine.2 Experts say it lowers your risk of catching the virus, as well as preventing serious illness if you do get infected.

By getting your flu shot, you can also help protect more vulnerable groups in the community. This includes people who are unable to get vaccinated, and those who are most at risk of serious illness, such as babies, people over 65, pregnant women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and those with long-term medical conditions or weakened immune systems.1

How does the flu shot work?

Like all vaccines, the flu shot works by training your body’s natural immune response.3

Essentially, it tricks your body into thinking it has been infected with the influenza virus, which prompts your immune system to create antibodies to fight it off.

This means if you come into contact with the live flu virus in future, your body should be able to recognise it and make antibodies quickly enough to protect you.

When should you get the flu shot?

The flu vaccine is updated each year to protect against the most common strains of influenza virus, which change frequently. That’s why we're told it’s important to get the flu shot every year.

For the best protection, the Australian Government Department of Health recommends getting your flu shot in April – before winter, the peak flu season, starts.4

Once you’re vaccinated, it takes about two weeks for protection to develop. While protection should generally last the whole season, you’ll have the strongest defence against the flu for the first three to four months after getting the shot.5

How does it work with the COVID-19 vaccine?

If you’re in the queue for the COVID-19 vaccine, you should also get the flu shot – but it's recommended to receive the vaccines at least 14 days apart, according to the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).6

ATAGI advises that it doesn’t matter which one you have first, but it’s best to consult with a health care professional to advise on your particular circumstances.

Can the flu vaccine make you sick?

One of the most common myths about the flu shot is that it can give you the flu. Experts tell us this is not possible, because the flu vaccine doesn’t contain any active influenza virus, only parts of ‘dead’ (deactivated) virus that are not capable of causing influenza.7

However, we know that some people may develop mild symptoms like body aches, tiredness and low-grade fever soon after getting the flu shot. This is a common reaction to many vaccines.

Luckily, these side effects usually only last a day or two and should get better without treatment.1

For most people, the chance of serious side effects is very low. If you have any concerns, talk to your GP.

Experts say the flu shot is safe and effective, and getting vaccinated each year helps protect not just you, but the people around you too.

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Fully covered flu shot for eligible HBF health members

HBF health members covered for Healthy Living Programs may be eligible for a fully covered flu vaccination, delivered by a pharmacist at a range of convenient locations.

Find out more

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Sources:

1. Flu (influenza) (2020), Australian Government Department of Health

2. Influenza (flu) immunisation service (2021), Australian Government Department of Health

3. Immunisation or vaccination – what's the difference? (2020), healthdirect

4. Flu vaccination more important than ever during the month of April (2020), Australian Government Department of Health

5. Flu vaccine FAQs (2020), healthdirect

6. ATAGI advice on influenza and COVID-19 vaccines (2021), Australian Government Department of Health

7. Influenza vaccines for Australians – FAQs (2021), National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance

Disclaimer

This article contains general information only and does not take into account the health, personal situation or needs of any person. In conjunction with your GP or treating health care professional, please consider whether the information is suitable for you and your personal circumstances.