Influenza (the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a wide spectrum of influenza viruses.
These viruses can be passed on through respiratory droplets, when someone with the virus coughs, sneezes and talks. The flu virus can also be transmitted by touching surfaces that have the virus on them and then touching your face. Influenza is a common disease that can affect people of all ages.
Some common signs and symptoms of the flu include:
- Runny nose
- Fever and/or chills
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
- Body aches and pains
- Sore throat
Signs and symptoms can occur one to three days after you have caught it and may last for a week or more depending on the severity and how well your immune system is functioning.
Prevention is better than cure and the best prevention against the flu is an annual vaccination.
The virus mutates each year into a slightly different version, so you need an annual flu shot to minimise the risk of getting the flu. Each year the World Health Organisation recommends the strains to be included in the influenza vaccine based on the global influenza epidemiology.
The Australian Influenza Vaccine Committee uses this recommendation to determine what strains will be included in the Australian vaccine.
*Minimum age restrictions apply. Speak to your Pharmacist about the minimum age for child vaccinations. All children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian (parent or guardian must bring photo ID as proof of guardianship).
What is the Influenza (flu) Vaccine?
The influenza vaccine protects against strains of influenza, with a new version new each year to protect against the most common strains predicted for that year.
According to the Australian Immunisation Handbook, a systematic review estimated the effectiveness of the standard trivalent (three strain) influenza vaccine to be 59% against laboratory-confirmed influenza in healthy adults over 65 years. Quadrivalent (four strain) influenza vaccines are expected to have a similar efficacy.
Full protection from the vaccine may take up to two weeks to develop.
The annual influenza vaccination is for everyone over the age of 6 months. Some people may have contraindications which prevent them from getting this vaccine.
The influenza vaccine is particularly recommended for:
- Adults over 65
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
- Children aged 6 months to less than 5 years
- People with medical conditions that increase their risk of influenza
- Pregnant women
- Healthcare workers, cares and household contacts of people in high risk groups
- People who work in aged care
- People who are travelling during the influenza season
For everyone else, the flu vaccine can be useful to help prevent illness and time off work.
*Check with your pharmacist regarding state by state age restrictions.
Can the flu vaccine give me the flu?
No.. There is no live virus in the vaccine. Some people may experience a mild temperature as their body builds its defence against the flu. The vaccine does not prevent the common cold however, so you may still come down with a cold during the winter season despite getting vaccinated against the flu.
When should I have my flu shot?
In Australia, the best time to have the influenza vaccine is before the flu season which generally peaks between June and September. Protection is expected to last for the whole season, but optimal protection is within the first 3-4 months after the vaccination. Therefore, it is best to get your vaccine in April or May each year.
How does a vaccine work?
A vaccine works by training the body’s immune system to recognise and attack the disease-causing bacteria or virus. To do this, molecules from the disease-causing bacteria or virus, called antigens, are introduced into the body to trigger the natural immune response.
The immune system learns how to recognise these antigens and produces antibodies, specialised protective proteins that latch onto antigens to remove them from the body. If the bacteria or virus appears, the immune system will attack it before it causes any illness.
Are vaccines safe?
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) regulates all medicines in Australia including vaccines. Before a vaccine is used in Australia, the TGA assesses its safety and effectiveness and seeks advice from experts such as the Advisory Committee on Vaccines before it is approved1. In addition to this, vaccine manufacturers must have a risk management plan that details any potential safety risks and how they will be dealt with if they arise1.
Once a vaccine has been approved and is used on the population, its safety and effectiveness continue to be monitored by conducting further clinical trials, surveillance of the impact of the vaccine on the disease it aims to prevent, and surveillance of adverse events following immunisation1.
Are there any side effects?
Adverse events can occur when you take any type of medication. Adverse effects following a vaccination can be classified as either local or systemic.
Local adverse events include injection site reaction. This is where you may notice pain, redness or swelling where the vaccine was given. Most of these are only mild and resolve without treatment within a few days1.
Systemic adverse events may include fever, headache, tiredness or allergic reactions. The most serious immediate adverse event following immunisation is anaphylaxis1. Severe anaphylactic reactions usually happen rapidly, within 15 minutes of the vaccination. If this happens it is treated immediately using adrenaline1. This is why we require you to wait 15 minutes after receiving a vaccination before leaving the store.
Who should not have a vaccine?
Vaccines should not be given to people who have a contraindication for the vaccine. That is, the person may have a pre-existing medical condition or may take a medication that significantly increases their chance of having a serious adverse event after a vaccination
How do I prepare for my vaccination?
- Understand what the vaccine is you are receiving and how it works. Write down any questions you may have and bring them to your appointment.
- Contact your local Blooms The Chemist to confirm the best time for you to come in for your vaccination. Once you book you will be asked to complete a pre-immunisation screening and consent form which will identify if you are eligible for your vaccination.
- On the day of your vaccination it is recommended that you wear a t-shirt or sleeveless shirt to allow easy access for the Pharmacist or Nurse to vaccinate the upper area of your arm.
- Please arrive five minutes before your appointment so the Pharmacist or Nurse can prepare for your vaccine.
Note: If you are feeling unwell on the day of your vaccination, give your Blooms The Chemist store a call so the Pharmacist can determine if you need to defer your vaccine.
Who will be vaccinating me?
A qualified, trained Pharmacist or Nurse will be providing you with your vaccination.
What will happen during my vaccination appointment?
During your appointment, a Pharmacist or Nurse will welcome you into the vaccinating area. You will take a seat and the Pharmacist or Nurse will go through your pre-immunisation checklist and consent form to ensure the vaccination is safe for you. They will then administer your vaccination. This appointment should only take a couple of minutes.
After your vaccination, the Pharmacist or Nurse will provide you with information regarding your vaccination including which arm you had the vaccination in and the batch number of the vaccine. A record of your vaccination will be uploaded to the Australian Immunisation Register.
What do I do after my vaccine appointment?
The Pharmacist or Nurse will ask you to wait in a specific observation area of the pharmacy for 15 minutes following the vaccination. One of the trained pharmacy staff will be monitoring you for any adverse events following your vaccination. If you feel unwell, please inform the staff member immediately.
What can I expect after my vaccination?
After your vaccination you may experience minor adverse events including injection site reactions such as:
Injection site reactions are usually mild and can last 1-2 days. Other common side effects which do not generally require treatment are:
- Injection site nodules – this may occur due to your body’s interaction with vaccine components in the muscle1. Nodules may last for many weeks after your vaccination
- Low-grade fever and tiredness
If you are concerned about any adverse event, please speak to your Doctor or Pharmacist.
How much will my vaccine cost?
The cost of each vaccine varies. Please call your local Blooms The Chemist store for prices.
Some vaccines are covered by the National Immunisation Program (NIP). The NIP provides free vaccinations to people of certain age groups or if you have a particular medical condition. If you are eligible for free vaccines under the NIP, you should speak to your doctor or pharmacist before booking your appointment.
For more information on immunisation and vaccination, visit:
- Australian Immunisation Handbook
- Centres for Disease Control and Prevention – Vaccines: The Basics
- National Immunisation Program
State and Territory Immunisation Websites