The flu is a highly contagious viral infection that can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications. For vulnerable Victorians, like children, the elderly and people with a weakened immune system, the flu can have serious and devastating outcomes. It is spread by contact with respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
It is estimated that the flu contributes to over 3,000 deaths and 18,000 hospitalisations in Australia each year. Symptoms of the flu can include fever, muscle and joint pain, extreme exhaustion, chills, sore throat and a stuffy nose.
Immunisation is the best protection against getting and spreading the flu. Annual immunisation is recommended for all persons aged 6 months and over, because the virus is constantly changing, and the vaccine changes accordingly.
Updates for 2020
All people aged 6 months to less than 5 years will now be eligible for free influenza vaccines under the National Immunisation Program in 2020.
This year Australia is the first country to offer an adjuvanted Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccine (QIV) – Fluad® Quad. This is available for people aged 65 years and over.
New age-specific vaccines will be available under the National Immunisation Program in 2020 for eligible people. Age indications for some vaccines have changed.
Who is eligible for a free flu shot?
The Australian Government’s National Immunisation Program provides a free flu vaccine to eligible people, including:
- People aged 65 and older
- Pregnant women
- All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 6 months or over
- People aged 6 months and older with medical conditions that put them at risk of complications from the flu
- Children 6mo to less than 5 years old.
If you fall into any of the categories above, it is recommended that you make an appointment at your preferred MyClinic to receive your vaccine.
Private Flu Shots
For all other persons who do not meet the criteria for government funded influenza vaccines it is still recommended that you receive the influenza vaccine to help prevent the spread of influenza.
Selected MyClinic’s will have private influenza vaccines available at a cost of $20.00. Call reception for more information.
Influenza pre-immunisation checklist
Before receiving the vaccine, make sure that you tell your doctor or nurse if you (or your child):
- are unwell (have a temperature over 38.5°C)
- have had a serious reaction to any vaccine
- have had a severe allergy to anything
- are under six months of age
- have had Guillain-Barré syndrome.
Possible side effects of the influenza vaccine
The influenza vaccine can cause side effects. In children under five years of age, these reactions may be more obvious. Common side effects of influenza vaccine include:
- drowsiness or tiredness
- muscle aches
- localised pain, redness and swelling at the injection site
- occasionally, an injection-site lump (nodule) that may last many weeks but needs no treatment
- low-grade temperature (fever).
Common side effects following immunisation are usually mild and temporary (occurring in the first two days after vaccination). Specific treatment is not usually required. There are a number of treatment options that can reduce the side effects of the vaccine including:
- drinking extra fluids and not overdressing if there is a fever
- although routine use of paracetamol after vaccination is not recommended, if pain and fever are present, paracetamol can be given – check the label for the correct dose or speak with your pharmacist, (especially when giving paracetamol to children).
Where to get help
- Your GP (doctor)
- In an emergency, always call triple zero (000)
- Emergency department of your nearest hospital
- Your local government immunisation service
- Maternal and Child Health (24 hours) Tel. 132 229
- NURSE-ON-CALL Tel. 1300 60 60 24 – for expert health information and advice (24 hours, 7 days)
- Immunisation , Department of Health and Human Services, Victorian Government Tel. 1300 882 008
- National Immunisation Tel. 1800 671 811
- Victorian vaccine safety service Tel. 1300 882 924 (option 1) – the line is attended between 9 am and 4 pm and you can leave a message at all other time