Common questions about the flu vaccine

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Getting the flu vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and others from getting the flu.

  • Even if you catch the flu after having the vaccination, your symptoms are likely to be milder, you are likely to have fewer sick days and you are less likely to pass it onto others.
  • If you are pregnant, it protects you and your baby against the flu.
  • By getting the vaccine, you will help protect vulnerable people in your community, eg, very young children, older adults and people with long-term health conditions.

Getting a vaccine may not stop you getting flu, but you are less likely to get very sick. 

It takes up to 2 weeks after your flu vaccination for your body's immune system to protect you against flu.

Research has shown that giving adults and children the flu vaccine has the following benefits :

Image credit: Health Navigator NZ

You need to get the flu vaccine every year because each year the flu vaccine is made to match the different strains of flu virus likely to be in Aotearoa New Zealand. Some strains are the same for more than one year, but it's still recommended that you have the vaccine each year, as the protection provided by the vaccine lessens over time.

Flu vaccines are usually available from autumn. Get your vaccination before winter when the flu is around the most. 

These flu vaccines are available in 2023:

  • Afluria Quad: For all ages from 3 years.
  • Afluria Quad Junior: For children aged 6 to 35 months (under 3 years)
  • Fluad Quad: For adults aged 65 and over (there's a cost involved as it's not funded)
  • Fluquadri: For all ages from 6 months old (there's a cost involved as it's not funded). 

Read more about 2023 influenza vaccines(external link).

Although people with conditions like asthma and diabetes are most at risk of complications from the flu, fit and healthy adults, children and infants can still become seriously ill and even die from the flu. Also, healthy people can spread the flu to others around them. So it's recommended that even fit and healthy people get the flu vaccine. 

Yes, it's strongly recommended that you get the flu vaccine if you are pregnant. It can be given at any stage during your pregnancy.

Pregnant women are more likely to get severe complications from the flu than non-pregnant women, and having the flu can be dangerous for their unborn baby too. Protection from the vaccine is passed from the mother in pregnancy to protect her newborn.

The flu vaccine has an excellent safety record during pregnancy and for unborn babies. Read more about pregnancy and immunisation.

Yes, you can safely have the vaccine if you are breastfeeding. Getting the vaccine can help protect you from the flu and passing it on to your baby. Breastfeeding may also give protection to the baby. However, babies have more protection if you get vaccinated during pregnancy.

Yes, you can still have the vaccine if you have a mild cold. If you only have a head cold with a runny nose or sniffles without a high fever, it's okay to have the vaccination. However, if you are very unwell with a fever, wait until you're better. If in doubt, check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

The vaccine can't cause the flu because it doesn't contain any live viruses. The vaccine stimulates an immune response which can include symptoms such as fever, headache and tiredness. This creates immunity but doesn't cause the illness. Most people tolerate the vaccine well.

Any after-effects from the vaccine are usually mild and last 1–2 days. They may include: 

  • soreness, aching and/or redness at the injection site
  • tiredness, feeling a little unwell or having a mild fever.

These are signs that your immune system is working. Contact your doctor if you have a more severe reaction to the flu vaccination or if you are concerned.

Yes, the flu is the most common vaccine-preventable disease with international travellers.

  • Flu outbreaks have been linked to travellers.
  • Travelling with large numbers of people in the same area, such as cruise ships or events with large gatherings, are high risk.
  • In tropical countries, the flu can occur throughout the year, so vaccination is worthwhile regardless of the season.
  • In the northern hemisphere, the flu is more common between the months of December and March.

Yes, the brands of the flu vaccine for the 2023 flu season can be given to people with egg allergy. Studies have shown that flu vaccines containing one microgram or less of ovalbumin do not trigger anaphylaxis in sensitive people. The residual ovalbumin in one dose of the flu vaccine for the 2023 flu season is below this limit.

Yes, the flu vaccine can be given to people taking anticoagulants, including aspirin, dabigatran (Pradaxa®), enoxaparin (Clexane®), heparin, ticagrelor (Brilinta®), rivaroxaban (Xarelto®) and warfarin. After vaccination, you can apply pressure for 10 minutes over the injection site (without rubbing) to reduce the risk of bruising.

Yes, all brands of flu vaccines for the 2023 flu season are latex free and safe to use if you have a latex allergy.  

Yes, the brands of the flu vaccine for the 2023 flu season can be given to people with a sulfonamide (sulphur) allergy.

Influenza vaccine Healthify He Puna Waiora, NZ
Influenza(external link) Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ


(Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ, 2017)

Here are videos from healthcare providers providing information about the flu vaccine. The video below is in Mandarin and it's also available in Cantonese(external link)Hindi(external link) and Korean(external link).

(Ministry of Health, NZ, 2022)

References

  1. Everything you need to know about flu 2022(external link) The Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ

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Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist, Healthify He Puna Waiora. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland

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