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Your best protection against influenza (flu) is the flu vaccination. According to the Department of Health, on average, a vaccinated person is 40-60% less likely to experience the flu (based on infected people presenting to GPs or hospitals) than an unvaccinated person.
A highly contagious disease of the respiratory tract, the flu spreads water droplets are dispersed through the air via sneezing or coughing from an infected person. A sneeze can contain up to 2 million virus particles, travel at 160 km/h, and spread up to 1.5 metres. When these land on surfaces, the virus can be picked up by people who touch the surface up to 2 days later.
People are infectious and can spread the virus before they even know they are sick, and remain infectious until 5-7 days after symptoms begin. Washing your hands for 20 seconds or using a hand sanitiser containing 60-95% ethanol or isopropanol is an essential part of flu prevention. Antibiotics are not effective against the flu as it is a viral disease.
The flu is different to the common cold and can lead to life threatening illnesses such as pneumonia, heart and other organ damage, brain inflammation or brain damage and even death. For the elderly, people with poor immune systems and people with pre-existing respiratory, cardiac and endocrine disease—influenza can be a significant illness and may even cause death.
Flu Symptoms and how they differ to a cold
Even if you don’t get any of these conditions, having the flu is a miserable experience, and will put you out of action, and off work or school for a week or more. Some people are ill for much longer.
Why vaccinate against the flu?
The most effective weapon against flu and its complications is the flu shot. The more people who are vaccinated, the less the flu will spread in the community. April–May is usually a good time to get your flu shot in Australia. It’s particularly important to get your flu vaccination this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, although the timing of your COVID-19 vaccine may affect when you are able to receive a flu vaccine. Some people who are at high risk of complications from the flu will not be able to be immunised, so it’s important that healthy Australians do everything they can to avoid spreading this disease.
Since the flu virus is always changing, a yearly vaccination is recommended. Recent studies show that flu vaccines provide the best protection three to four months after vaccination. It takes up to 2 weeks to get full protection from this year’s flu shot.
In Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales, people 10 years and older are eligible for the flu vaccination to be administered by a pharmacist. Please note that you will need to stay in the pharmacy for 15 minutes after your vaccination so we can observe and assist should you experience a reaction.
Protect yourself and those around you from the flu this year. Arrange a vaccination at Malouf Pharmacies with a quick and convenient in-store appointment
FIND A STORE WITH AVAILABLE APPOINTMENTS
The Australian Government recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months has a flu vaccine every year. It’s difficult to predict who will catch the flu, or who will become seriously ill from it. The flu can require someone to be hospitalised and it can even be fatal.
Getting vaccinated against the flu helps protect both you and the people around you. It’s particularly important to protect vulnerable people in the community who can’t be vaccinated, such as babies who are younger than 6 months and adults with low immunity.
COVID-19 vaccinations have changed government recommendations for flu vaccinations in 2021:
- People in phase 1a for COVID-19 vaccination should receive the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it is available to them, and then receive their flu vaccine.
- People in later phases for COVID-19 vaccination should receive their flu vaccine as soon as it is available, and then receive their COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them.
Peak immunisation authorities also recommend at least a 14 day period between receiving a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu vaccine.
No. All flu vaccines used in Australia are ‘inactivated’, which means they do not contain the live flu virus and so you can't catch the flu from the vaccine.
Less than 15% of people experience side effects from the flu shot that are similar to the early signs of the flu. These may include fever, tiredness and muscle aches. These side effects can start within a few hours of your being vaccinated and sometimes last for 1 or 2 days. They usually go away on their own, once your body has developed an immune response to the vaccine, which will protect you from the flu virus.
It’s important to remember that the side effects show the vaccine is triggering an immune response, which is what it’s designed to do.
The influenza vaccine is very safe. The chance of experiencing a serious problem from having a vaccine is far lower than the risk of serious harm from catching influenza. Your Ramsay Pharmacist will ask you questions before giving you the vaccine to make sure that you are not at higher risk of side effects, because of allergies or other problems.
You may experience common side effects such as pain, redness or swelling at the injection site, body aches, tiredness or slight fever. These may be signs that the vaccine is triggering your immune response, which is what it is designed to do. They will go away by themselves within a couple of days. The vaccine doesn’t contain any live virus, so you can’t get the flu from being vaccinated.
Flu vaccination prevents illness in 5 or 6 out of 10 healthy adults under the age of 65. Because the vaccine is not effective in absolutely every case, some people may still catch the virus after having the flu shot, but the risk of illness is still reduced.
Although most people who get the flu recover without lasting effects, the flu can be very serious in some people and may require them to be hospitalised. In some cases, it can even be fatal. Vaccination against the flu reduces your chances of getting it and may reduce the severity of the symptoms, so it is still important to have the shot.
Feeling cold doesn't cause the flu (or the common cold). The only way to catch influenza is to be exposed to the virus, via tiny droplets of mucus that are coughed or sneezed into the air or transmitted through touch.
Cold and flu season does happen to coincide with the colder months. Wintry weather forces people indoors more often — where they're more likely to be in close proximity with infectious people.
You need a flu vaccination each year as the flu virus frequently changes. The flu vaccine is updated every year according to the most common strains likely to affect Australia during the winter season. The benefit of the flu vaccine tends to wear off after three to four months.
Ramsay Pharmacy are using an egg-based vaccine that contains fragments of the following strains:
- A/Victoria/2570/2019 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus;
- A/Hong Kong/2671/2019 (H3N2)-like virus;
- B/Washington/02/2019-like (B/Victoria lineage) virus; and
- B/Phuket/3073/2013-like (B/Yamagata lineage) virus.
The influenza vaccine is grown in eggs. But the traces of egg protein that remain after the vaccine is made are so tiny that the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) says both adults and children with egg allergy can be safely vaccinated against the flu. The risk of anaphylaxis in response to the vaccine is very low, estimated at 1.35 cases per 1 million doses.
It is rare for people with egg allergy to experience other adverse effects, such as hives, wheezing, vomiting or abdominal pain, after getting the flu shot. If you are concerned, ask your doctor if you, or your child, can be observed by staff for 30 minutes after receiving the vaccine, instead of the recommended 15 minutes.
The flu vaccine won’t protect you against COVID-19 (coronavirus), but it will reduce your risk of influenza — which leads to thousands of hospitalisations each year. By getting the flu vaccine, you can reduce the strain on the health service.
Current advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) is that routine scheduling of an influenza vaccine with a COVID-19 vaccine on the same day is not recommended. The preferred minimum interval between a dose of seasonal influenza vaccine and a COVID-19 vaccine is 14 days. At the time of this advice, there are no safety or efficacy data for administration of influenza vaccines at the same time as a COVID-19 vaccine.
The National Immunisation Program provides government-funded vaccines for those most at risk, including:
- pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy;
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people ;
- people aged 65 years and older;
- people with certain medical risk factors.
If you live in Victoria, your Ramsay Pharmacist can vaccinate under the National Immunisation Program (a service fee applies), and in all states, your GP can assist. But if you aren’t eligible for the National Immunisation Program and would like to arrange your vaccination, contact your nearest Ramsay Pharmacy team.
Terms and Conditions:
$17.99 for the quadrivalent influenza vaccine. *Age restrictions do apply – you must be 10 years and overto receive a flu vaccination at Ramsay Pharmacy or Malouf Pharmacies in QLD, NSW & VIC. Administered by a qualified Pharmacist. Subject to pharmacist immuniser availability. Please allow 15 minute post-vaccination for monitoring.