Influenza vaccination

Last Updated: 28 Sep 2020 3:15pm

Get your flu shot

Influenza (flu) is a potentially serious illness, different to the common cold. Some people who get flu need hospital care. Flu can be fatal. Lots of people getting sick with flu is the last thing we need right now.

An annual flu shot is your best protection against flu. It will help protect you and the people around you. This year, that’s more important than ever.

Australia has a large supply of flu vaccine this year and we expect there will be high demand.

Flu shots are available early (now) for people at greater risk from flu, because of the added risk of COVID-19.

If you are not at greater risk from flu, vaccine will be widely available from May. If your GP or pharmacy doesn’t have vaccine available for you yet, be patient. You might need to wait a week or two until there are more supplies and appointment times available. Flu shots are generally provided from late April to May.

People at greater risk of severe illness from flu can get free vaccine, although your doctor might charge for the appointment.

People at greater risk and eligible for free flu vaccine are:

  • babies aged six months up to their fifth birthday
  • all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months and older
  • pregnant women (at any stage of pregnancy)
  • all people aged 65 years and older
  • people aged six months and older with medical conditions that increase the risk of severe illness from influenza.

Remember, influenza vaccine cannot give you flu.

Will the flu vaccine protect against COVID-19?

Flu vaccine does not protect against the virus that causes COVID-19, but does reduce the risk of seasonal influenza, a potentially serious illness.

Is it OK to leave your home to get flu vaccine?

Yes, it’s OK to leave your home to get vaccinated if you haven’t been instructed to quarantine.

It is important to keep away from other people as much as possible when you go to get your vaccine. Wash your hands before you leave home and when you return home.

Where can I get my flu vaccine?

Vaccine is available from GPs (phone for appointments) and some chemists. Your local council may also run immunisation clinics in late April and May.

Where can I get more information about seasonal influenza and vaccination?

You can get more information about seasonal influenza on the fluTAS website.

What is the difference between COVID-19 and influenza?

In many ways, COVID-19 and seasonal influenza are similar. In both, fever and cough are common, and both can cause mild to severe illness and can sometimes be fatal. Check the poster showing the common symptoms of COVID-19 and influenza.

Both viruses spread from person-to-person the same way, through uncovered coughs and sneezes, close contact and when you touch your face (especially lips, mouth, eyes and nose) or food with unwashed hands that have come into contact with the virus on unclean surfaces.

Important differences are:

  1. There is vaccine that is updated every year for seasonal influenza. It might take 12–18 months for a vaccine to be created, tested and widely available for COVID-19.
  2. There is treatment for seasonal influenza, through antivirals. There is no treatment for COVID-19.
  3. Influenza has a short incubation period (the time from infection to becoming unwell), of 1–2 days. The incubation period for COVID-19 is 1–14 days, and most often 5–6 days.

COVID-19 seems more likely to cause severe illness than seasonal influenza. While most people have mild COVID-19 illness that can be managed at home, around 15 per cent (1–2 people in every ten people infected) have severe illness, and 5 percent (one in 20 people infected) need intensive care