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
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 getting your flu shot each
is one of the best things you can do to help.
Why get the flu shot?
There are two good reasons to get the flu shot. Protecting yourself from the flu, and protecting your community.
For yourself, the flu shot provides safe and effective protection from serious disease caused by influenza. That’s why the Australian government recommends getting it.2
By getting your flu shot, you can also help protect more vulnerable groups in the community. This includes people
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
The bottom line is, the more people who are vaccinated in your community, the less likely the disease will spread.2
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 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 autumn – before winter, the peak flu season, starts.2
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.4 That all being said it is never too late to be vaccinated.
How does it work with the COVID-19 vaccine?
The COVID-19 vaccine does not protect against the flu, so it is recommended to still have your annual flu shot if you're vaccinated for COVID-19.
You don't even have to wait between getting the flu and COVID-19 vaccines, according to the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).5
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. 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.4
However, some people may develop mild symptoms like body aches, tiredness and low-grade fever soon
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.4
For most people, the chance of serious side effects is very low. If you have any concerns, talk to your GP.
The flu shot is safe and effective, and getting vaccinated each year helps protect not just you, but
people around you too.
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.