Each year influenza (flu) vaccine is developed to protect you against the most common strains of flu. Influenza disease can be very serious leading to complications such as pneumonia, myocarditis (inflammation of the heart), neurological conditions and other bacterial infections.
The flu vaccine is recommended for any person six months of age and over who wishes to reduce the likelihood of becoming ill with the flu.
Flu vaccines are free through the 2020 Annual Influenza Program for eligible groups such as:
- pregnant women
- people aged six months and older with medical risk factors.
- all children aged six months to less than five years of age
- all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months and over
- everyone aged 65 years and over
Adults and children who are homeless and are not eligible for free flu vaccines under the National Immunisation Program’s Annual Influenza Program, are eligible for free flu vaccine under a State Funded Influenza Program.
Although not funded, the flu vaccine is also strongly recommended for:
- people who may potentially pass on the flu to those at high risk of complications from flu infection
- people providing essential services (for example, police and ambulance officers)
- workers in other industries (corporations wishing to reduce absenteeism in the workforce)
Availability of flu vaccines
Funded flu vaccine is expected to be available from April but this can vary.
Several brands of flu vaccine from different manufacturers are used and they become available at different times. Some flu vaccines are used only in the funded program, some are used only for private programs and others may be used for both funded and private programs.
When adequate stocks are available, funded flu vaccine is distributed to immunisation providers using the established South Australian vaccine distribution system. Privately purchased flu vaccine supplies are arranged by the providers that use them and may be available at a different time to funded flu vaccines.
Check with your immunisation provider to find out approximately when they will have the vaccine available and when you will be able to book in to have the vaccine.
Vaccines available under the National Immunisation Program
All funded vaccines available for use in Australia for the 2020 flu season are quadrivalent (four strains- two influenza A and two influenza B) and contain the following strains:
- an A/Brisbane/02/2018 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus
- an A/South Australia/34/2019 (H3N2)-like virus
- a B/Washington/02/2019-like (B/Victoria lineage) virus and
- a B/Phuket/3073/2013-like (B/Yamagata lineage) virus.
These influenza vaccines are available for free through the National Immunisation Program for 2020 depending on eligibility:
- Vaxigrip Tetra® – for all those from 6 months to 64 years of age
- Fluarix® Tetra – for all those from 6 months to 64 years of age
- FluQuadriTM – for those from 6 months to 64 years of age
- Afluria® Quad – for those 5 years to 64 years of age.
- Fluad® Quad® for those 65 years of age and over
All funded flu vaccines available in Australia in 2020 are latex free
All children six months to less than nine years of age receiving flu vaccine for the first time should receive two doses at least one month apart to improve their immune response. Otherwise, if a child in this age group has received at least one flu vaccine in a previous flu season they only require one dose each subsequent year.
For further information about the funded influenza vaccines available through the National Immunisation Program for 2020 see the 2020 Annual Influenza Program (PDF 53KB)(opens in a new window).
How the vaccine is given
Flu vaccine is given as an injection into the thigh if under 12 months of age, and into the top of the arm from 12 months of age.
People with egg allergy
People with egg allergy(opens in a new window), including a history of anaphylaxis, can be safety vaccinated with influenza vaccines(opens in a new window). You do not have to be vaccinated in a hospital setting. If you have an egg allergy please discuss this with your immunisation provider.
Possible side effects
Like any medications, the flu vaccine can have some minor and short lasting side effects.
Common side effects may include:
- pain, redness and swelling at the injection site
- drowsiness, tiredness or irritability
- muscle aches
- low grade fever of 37 to 38 degrees Celsius.
Some side effects may appear as ‘flu-like’ symptoms, but all flu vaccines currently available in Australia do not contain live virus and cannot cause the flu.
Rare side effects may include a severe allergic reaction.
If you are concerned or worried, seek further advice from your doctor, immunisation provider, SA Health’s Immunisation Section or healthdirect Australia.
Any unexpected event following immunisation should be reported to SA Health.
Reducing the side effects
Many of the common side effects can often be reduced by:
- drinking extra fluids
- taking paracetamol as per the instructions on the packet/bottle
- not overdressing if you are already hot.
Where to get immunised
To receive the annual flu vaccine contact your doctor, local council, community health centre, Aboriginal health centre or an approved pharmacy.