SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- Influenza (sometimes called 'the flu') is a highly contagious virus that causes widespread illness every year.
- Immunisation and practising prevention measures are the best ways we can protect against the flu and reduce the number of influenza infections and deaths.
- Yearly flu immunisation is recommended for everyone aged 6 months and over.
- Some people are more at risk of complications from the flu and are eligible for free vaccination.
- People who work or live with people who are at risk of serious complications should also be immunised to avoid spreading the flu.
- You can get a flu vaccine from your GP or local pharmacist. Some workplaces provide flu vaccination programs to employees.
- The flu vaccine cannot give you influenza because it does not contain any live virus.
- You can receive your flu vaccine and your COVID-19 vaccine on the same day.
Influenza immunisation provides protection against influenza and helps reduce the number of infections and deaths. Good hand hygiene, cough etiquette and staying home when unwell also help prevent the spread of influenza.
Since the pandemic began, there have been low rates of the flu in Australia due to closed international borders and social distancing measures. However, with borders opening, a resurgence of the flu may occur in 2022. Vaccination is key to protecting yourself and those around you from the flu.
Who should be immunised against influenza (flu)?
Immunisation against the flu is recommended for everyone aged 6 months and over.
Some people are more at risk of complications from the flu and are eligible for free vaccination.
People with an underlying medical condition or reduced immunity are most at risk and should be immunised against the flu. They include:
- anyone aged 65 years and older
- pregnant women (at any stage of )
- all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged from 6 months and over
- people 6 months or older with:
- children on long-term aspirin therapy from 6 months to 10 years
- children aged from 6 months to under 5 years.
Immunisation is also recommended (but not necessarily free) for other people such as:
- those who work with or live in close contact with people with an underlying medical condition or reduced immunity, such as:
- health care workers
- staff in long-term care facilities or nursing homes
- people who live with, or care for someone who has a chronic illness or is aged over 65 years
- carers of homeless people
- workers, particularly those in workplaces that provide essential services
- people who work with children
- people with
- people who are obese (BMI greater than or equal to 30 kg/m2)
- people who are addicted to
- people who are homeless
- residents in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities
- people involved in the commercial poultry and pig industry
- people who provide essential community services
- anyone visiting parts of the world where the flu is circulating, especially if travelling in a group.
Speak to your immunisation provider to see if you are eligible for a free flu vaccine.
Where to get the influenza (flu) vaccine
In Victoria the most common way people access the flu vaccine is from their or a pharmacist immuniser (a service fee may apply). Some local council immunisation services also provide the flu vaccine as do some hospitals, maternity services and community health services.
Workplaces seeking to reduce the impact of flu infection on employees may also provide flu vaccination programs for their staff.
When to get the influenza (flu) vaccine
Yearly vaccination before the onset of each flu season is recommended. In most parts of Australia, flu season occurs from June to September, with the flu vaccine typically available from April.
Recent evidence suggests optimal protection against the flu occurs within the first 3-4 months following vaccination. It is important to note that, while the influenza virus continues to circulate, it is never too late to vaccinate.
How the influenza (flu) vaccine works
The influenza viruses change every year because the influenza virus has a unique ability to change its surface structure. This means that even if you had the flu or an immunisation one year, your body’s immune system might be unable to fight the changed version of the virus that will be circulating the following year.
Each year, a new vaccine is developed (usually called the seasonal flu vaccine) and is available for those who wish to be immunised. The seasonal flu vaccine includes protection against four strains of influenza viruses.
The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu because it does not contain live virus. Some people may still contract the flu because the vaccine may not always protect against all strains of the influenza virus circulating in the community.
Who should get immunised against influenza (flu)?
Everyone who is able to be vaccinated, should be vaccinated against the flu, every year.
In Victoria, flu vaccination is free for:
- children aged 6 months to less than 5 years
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from 6 months and over
- women – at any stage of pregnancy
- people 65 years and over.
- people aged six months and older with medical conditions putting them at increased risk of severe influenza and its complications:
Influenza (flu) vaccines for different ages
Age restrictions apply to all flu vaccine brands. There are formulations for people under 65 years and a formulation for people 65 years and older.
Check with your immunisation provider that the right formulation is used for your age or someone in your care.
Pregnancy and influenza (flu) immunisation
Flu vaccination of pregnant women also protects infants against the flu for the first 6 months after birth due to transplacental transfer of antibodies from the vaccinated woman to the unborn baby.
Some people may need more than one influenza (flu) vaccine each year
There are some people who are recommended to have a second dose of the flu vaccine within the space of one year.
- Children less than 9 years receiving their flu 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 the flu vaccine for the first time after transplant.
- Pregnant women, who may be vaccinated with the next season’s flu 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 flu vaccine if going to the northern hemisphere winter and receiving the northern hemisphere formulation there is not feasible.
Please check with your GP, pharmacist, or other immunisation provider to find out whether you fall into one of these categories.
Can you have the influenza (flu) vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine on the same day?
The influenza (flu) vaccine pre-immunisation checklist
- are unwell (have a temperature over 38.5°C)
- have had a serious reaction to any vaccine
- have had a severe allergy to anything
- are under 6 months
- have had .
Possible side effects of the influenza (flu) vaccine
The flu vaccine can cause side effects. In children under 5 years, these reactions may be more obvious.
Common side effects of the flu vaccine include:
- drowsiness or tiredness
- muscle aches
- localised pain, redness and swelling at the injection site
- occasionally, an injection-site lump (nodule) that may last many weeks but needs no treatment
- low-grade temperature ().
Managing side effects after immunisation
are usually mild and temporary (occurring in the first 2 days after vaccination). Specific treatment is not usually required. There are several treatment options that can reduce the side effects of the vaccine including:
- Drinking extra fluids and not overdressing if there is a fever.
- Although routine use of paracetamol after vaccination is not recommended, if pain and fever are present, paracetamol can be given – check the label for the correct dose or speak with your pharmacist (especially when giving paracetamol to children).
Concerns about side effects
If the side effects following immunisation are unexpected, persistent, or severe, or if you are worried about yourself or your child’s condition after a vaccination, see your doctor or immunisation nurse as soon as possible or go directly to a hospital.
You can discuss how to report problems in other states or territories with your immunisation provider.
Rare side effects of the influenza (flu) vaccine
There is a very small risk of a serious allergic reaction () to any vaccine. This is why you are advised to stay at the clinic, medical surgery, or pharmacy for at least 15 minutes following vaccination in case further treatment is required.
A small increase in Guillain-Barré syndrome was seen in the US in 1976, but since that time, surveillance has shown that it is limited to one case for every million doses of the flu vaccine, if at all.
If any other reactions are severe and persistent, or if you are worried, contact your doctor for further information.
Where to get help
- In an emergency, always call triple zero (000)
- Emergency department of your nearest hospital
- Your local government immunisation service – visit
- (24 hours) Tel.
- Tel. – for expert health information and advice (24 hours, 7 days)
- Immunisation Unit, Department of Health, Victorian Government Email:
- National Immunisation Information Line Tel.
- Your community pharmacy
- Tel. (option 1)