Influenza vaccine for adults

Key points about the influenza (flu) vaccine for adults

  • The influenza immunisation programme for 2023 runs between the 1 April to 31 December.
  • It is best to get the flu vaccine as soon as you can. Winter is the time when you are most likely to come into contact with the flu and it takes about 2 weeks for your flu vaccination to be most effective.
  • Read about how to get the influenza vaccine.
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The influenza immunisation programme starts on 1 April and runs to 31 December 2023

It's best to get the flu vaccine as soon as you can. Winter is the time when you are most likely to come into contact with the flu and it takes about 2 weeks for your flu vaccination to be most effective. 

The 2023 flu vaccine is free for:

  • tamariki aged 6 months to 12 years old
  • pregnant people
  • Māori and Pacific people aged 55 years and older
  • everyone aged 65 years and older
  • anyone with underlying health conditions including heart disease, cancer, diabetes and serious asthma
  • anyone with mental illness such as schizophrenia or those currently accessing mental health services.

Read more about the eligibility criteria(external link)(external link) and the flu vaccine for children.

Also see common questions about the flu vaccine.

You can get the flu vaccine together with the COVID-19 vaccine
  • The flu vaccine can be given at the same time or immediately before or after the COVID-19 vaccine. If given at the same time, you will receive the vaccines at separate places on your arms and with different syringes. Read more about COVID-19 vaccine booster.
  • If you have had COVID and are symptom-free and have completed at least 7-days of self-isolation, you can have the flu vaccine.

The influenza vaccine (also called the flu vaccine) is used to prevent infection caused by the influenza (flu) virus. The flu can cause serious illness, especially in young children, older adults and people with chronic health problems, but anyone can become seriously ill from the flu virus. Even if you're not feeling sick, you could still be infected with the flu virus and pass it on to others. Read more about the flu.

Vaccination is the best way to prevent infection and reduce the seriousness of illness if you become infected. If you do get the flu after being vaccinated, you usually get a mild form of it, recover faster and are less likely to have serious complications.

Being vaccinated causes your body to produce antibodies against the flu virus. This means your body can respond faster and more effectively to the flu when it's exposed to the virus. 

Each year the flu vaccine is made to match the different strains of flu virus likely to be in Aotearoa New Zealand. Even if the vaccine strains are the same it's still recommended that you have the vaccine each year, as the protection provided by the vaccine lessens over time. Read more about vaccination against influenza.

It's possible to come into contact with flu viruses all year round, but there's more flu virus circulating in the community during winter. The flu vaccine is available from 1 April each year, before winter starts. 



If you become pregnant after winter and haven't had a current flu vaccine, it's recommended that you have it by 31 December. Read more about vaccinations and pregnancy.

You should delay a flu vaccine if you’re feeling unwell.

If you’ve recently had COVID-19 you can have a flu vaccine as soon as you’ve recovered.

It’s also important to talk to your health professional before getting the vaccine if you: 

  • have had Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • are having cancer treatments
  • have had an allergic reaction to a vaccination before.

The vaccine is given by injection into a muscle, such as the muscle on your upper arm. If you have a condition that makes you bleed more easily than normal, it may be given as an injection underneath your skin. Babies and toddlers are given the injection on the side of their thigh.

Anyone aged over 9 years old only needs 1 dose of the flu vaccine to get protection for the season. For younger children, see influenza vaccine in children.  

After you get the flu vaccine, a trained healthcare professional will keep an eye on afterwards to make sure you don't have any reaction to the vaccination.

Flu vaccines can be booked online through Book My Vaccine.(external link) 

  • The flu vaccination is available from your doctor, nurse, some pharmacies or other healthcare providers.
  • Pharmacies: Everyone over 3 years old can get flu immunisations at certain pharmacies. See HealthPoint(external link) for pharmacies offering flu vaccines.
  • Some work places (check with your employer).

If you need to pay for the flu vaccine
If you don't meet the above free flu vaccine criteria, and you don't have a free flu vaccine voucher from your employer, there will be a cost for the flu vaccine. Ask your doctor, nurse, healthcare provider, or pharmacy if you’re unsure.

If you, or your child, are not eligible for a free flu vaccine, it costs between $25 and $45.

Like all medicines, the flu vaccine can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often side effects improve as your body gets used it.

Side effects What should I do?
  • Pain, swelling or redness around the injection site 
  • This is quite common after having the vaccination.
  • It usually starts a few hours after getting the injection and settles within a few days.
  • Place a cold, wet cloth or ice pack where the injection was given. Leave it on for a short time. 
  • Don't rub the injection site.
  • Tell your doctor if it bothers you.
  • Read more: After your immunisation.(external link)
  • Fever
  • This is quite common for the first 1 or 2 days after receiving the injection and usually settles within a few days.
  • Dress lightly, with a single layer of clothing.
  • Keep the room cool and use a fan if you have one.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • The routine use of paracetamol is not recommended after vaccinations, but may be used if you are feeling unwell.
  • Tell your doctor if your fever persists.
  • Read more: After your immunisation.(external link)
  • Feeling unwell, tired or weak
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle ache
  • Headache
  • These are quite common for the first 1 or 2 days after receiving the injection.
  • They usually settle within a few days.
  • Rest and drink plenty of fluids.
  • The routine use of paracetamol is not recommended following vaccinations, but may be used for relief of severe discomfort.
  • Tell your doctor if they bother you.
  • Read more: After your immunisation.(external link)

The following links have more information on the flu vaccine:

Frequently asked questions about the flu vaccine Health Navigator NZ
What you need to know about the flu vaccination [PDF, 181 KB] Te Whatu Ora, NZ, 2023
Flu (influenza) vaccines(external link) Ministry of Health, NZ
Influenza (flu) topics Health Navigator NZ


  1. Influenza vaccines(external link) The Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
  2. Flu 2023 Essential information for health professionals(external link) The Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
  3. Influenza vaccines(external link) The Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ

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Link to Māori Pharmacists website

Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist

Reviewed by: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland

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