Better Health Channel

Don't forget your flu shot. Protect yourself and others this flu season.

The flu isn’t like the common cold, it can hit quickly and last for weeks. For some people, the flu can have serious and devastating outcomes. It’s important everyone in the community plays their part in helping stop the spread of flu.

Our message is simple: Don't forget your flu shot. Protect yourself and others this flu season. 

What is the flu?

The flu is a highly contagious viral infection that can cause severe illness. Each year the flu affects thousands of people and puts an enormous amount of pressure on our hospitals and health system.

Over 3,300 avoidable deaths occur in Australia every year from complications of seasonal flu, including pneumonia.

Everybody is at risk from flu, and even healthy people can sometimes die from it.

Find out more about flu (influenza).

Recognising the flu

The symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu can be similar. If you are feeling unwell with flu-like symptoms, contact the coronavirus hotline or your GP to check if you require coronavirus testing

Flu symptoms

The most common symptoms of the flu are the sudden appearance of a high-fever (38°C or more), a dry cough, muscle aches and feeling extremely weak and tired (not wanting to get out of bed). 

Other symptoms include chills, loss of appetite, sore throat and a runny or stuffy nose. 

Symptoms of the flu hit very quickly and may last for several weeks. A bout of the flu typically follows this pattern: 

  • Days 1–3: Sudden appearance of fever, headache, muscle pain and weakness, dry cough, sore throat and sometimes a stuffy nose.
  • Day 4: Fever and muscle aches decrease. Hoarse, dry or sore throat, cough and possible mild chest discomfort become more noticeable. You may feel tired or flat.
  • Day 8: Symptoms decrease. Cough and tiredness may last 1 to 2 weeks or more.

We all need to play our part in helping fight the flu this winter. 

Three simple steps to stop the spread of flu

Aside from getting your flu shot, here are three simple steps you can follow to stop the spread of flu.

Why get the flu vaccine? 

You never forget the flu, it can hit quickly and last for a few weeks, meaning time off work or school and staying away from family and friends.

The flu doesn’t discriminate, and anyone can be affected – that’s why it's so important that everyone in the community protects themselves against the flu this season by getting their flu shot.

Find out more about flu (influenza) immunisation.

The flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine

An important update regarding timing between receiving the flu and COVID-19 vaccines for all Victorians including those most vulnerable in our community. 

The original recommended timing between receipt of the 2 vaccines was a preferred minimum interval of 2 weeks (14 days). 

Based on the latest medical advice the preferred minimum interval between vaccinations for COVID-19 and the flu is now 7 days.

It’s never too late to get the flu vaccine

Everyone should get an annual flu shot. If you haven’t had your flu shot this year, it’s never too late to be vaccinated. Particularly if you’re in an at-risk group and eligible for free flu vaccination.

The flu vaccination is free for:

  • children aged 6 months to under 5 years
  • pregnant women
  • people aged over 65
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (6 months and over)
  • people with chronic medical conditions.

By getting your flu shot, you’re not just protecting yourself, you’re also protecting vulnerable people who cannot receive the vaccine themselves, such as young babies less than 6 months old and those who have low immunity. 

You can get your flu shot from a range of providers – including GPs, community health centres and some pharmacies.

Please note, some doctors or other immunisation providers may charge a consultation fee. Check with your local immunisation provider to see whether there are any costs involved.

People who need more than one influenza vaccine a year

There are some people who are recommended to have a second dose of the influenza vaccine within the space of one year. These people include:

  • Children less than 9 years of age receiving their influenza vaccine for the first time require 2 doses 4 weeks apart for an adequate immune response.
  • People who have had a haematopoietic stem cell transplant or solid organ transplant and are receiving influenza vaccine for the first time after transplant.
  • Pregnant women, who may be vaccinated with the next season’s influenza vaccine if it becomes available in the latter part of their pregnancy, even if they were vaccinated with the previous season’s vaccine prior to or earlier in pregnancy. 
  • Overseas travellers, who may benefit from a second dose of this season’s influenza vaccine if going to the northern hemisphere winter and receiving the northern hemisphere formulation there is not feasible.

Please check with your GP to find out whether you fall into one of these categories.

Staying safe and stopping the spread of the flu

We've learnt a lot about staying safe and healthy in the last year, but the seasonal flu is still a concern and the best way to prevent it is by getting your flu shot

Listen to our flu podcast

Apple illustration with headphones on the apple as if it was listening to something

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Brett Sutton and the Director of the World Health Organisation’s Influenza Centre, Professor Kanta Subbarao discuss the complexities of the different flu viruses and how vaccines are crafted to protect us, common misconceptions, when to get vaccinated and why some groups are more vulnerable to the flu.

Listen to our flu podcast.

Give feedback about this page

Reviewed on: 03-05-2021