Influenza vaccine for adults

The influenza vaccine is used to prevent infection caused by the influenza (flu) virus. Find out about the vaccine and possible side effects.

On this page, you will find information about:

Also see common questions about the flu vaccine.

Influenza (flu) vaccine for 2022

The influenza immunisation programme starts on 1 April and runs to 31 December 2022.

It is best to get the flu vaccine as soon as possible, because winter is the time when you are most likely to come into contact with the flu. It takes about 2 weeks for your flu vaccination to be most effective. Even if you haven’t had the flu vaccine before winter, you can still get it in the following months.

Many more people are eligible for the free flu vaccine this year:

  • pregnant people
  • Māori communities and Pacific people aged 55 years and older
  • everyone aged 65 years and older
  • people aged under 65 years with certain medical conditions 
  • people under 65 years of age who have schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, or schizoaffective disorder; OR are currently accessing secondary or tertiary mental health and addiction services
  • children/tamariki aged 3–12 years
  • children/tamariki under 3 years who have been hospitalised for respiratory illness or have a history of significant respiratory illness.

Read more about the eligibility criteria and the flu vaccine for children.

Getting the flu vaccine is more important than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic 

  • Getting the flu vaccine will reduce your risk of catching the flu.  
  • In the past few years, COVID-19-related restrictions resulted in a lower than usual flu season. Experts are uncertain how lifting the COVID-19 restrictions will affect the upcoming season. Natural immunity to flu is expected to be lower than usual, potentially putting more vulnerable people at risk of serious illness or death.
  • 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. 
  • If you have had COVID and are symptom-free and feeling better after having the infection, you can have the flu vaccine.

What is 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 are 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. By coming across a non-infectious version of the virus in the vaccine first, it learns to recognise it. When it comes across it again, your body can react much faster and in a more effective way.

Why do I need to get vaccinated every year?

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 New Zealand. Occasionally the vaccine strains are the same for more than one year, but it is 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.

When is the flu vaccine given?

It is possible to come into contact with flu viruses all year round, but the chance of the flu virus circulating in the community is highest during winter.

For most people, the best time to be vaccinated against the flu is just before the start of the winter season. In Aotearoa New Zealand, this is between April and June. It takes around 2 weeks after vaccination for the vaccine to be fully effective. You may still get the flu in this time if you come into contact with the virus, so get vaccinated in time for winter.

Pregnancy

If you become pregnant after winter and have not received the current flu vaccine, it is recommended that you have it by 31 December. Read more about vaccinations and pregnancy.

Who should get the flu vaccine?

Anyone over the age of 6 months can have the flu vaccine. The flu vaccine is free for these people, who are considered to be at greater risk of complications from the flu:

  • Māori communities and Pacific peoples aged 55 to 64 years
  • pregnant people (any trimester)
  • people aged 65 years and older
  • people aged 6 months to under 65 years with certain medical conditions
  • tamariki aged 4 years or under who have been hospitalised for respiratory illness (including measles) or have a history of significant respiratory illness.

Check with your doctor if you are uncertain about whether you qualify for a free flu vaccine. Read more about the eligibility criteria.

The vaccination is also recommended (although may not be free) if you are in close contact with people with weakened immune systems, as these people may be less able to fight off the flu or are at high risk of complications from it. Frontline healthcare workers usually have the vaccine funded by their employer.

Who should not get the flu vaccine?

If you have had a severe allergic reaction following the flu vaccine in the past, let your doctor know before having another flu vaccination. Also, if you have a fever or are unwell, your doctor may recommend postponing the vaccination until you are well.

How is the flu vaccine given?

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.

Adults and children 9 years and older: Only one dose of the vaccine is needed to get protection for the season.

Children aged between 6 months and under 9 years: Two doses of the vaccine are needed, with the second dose given at least 4 weeks after the first. Tamariki in this age group who have received a flu vaccine at any time in the past need only one dose.

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.

What are the side effects of influenza vaccine?

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

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. 
  • Do not rub the injection site.
  • Tell your doctor if it bothers you.
  • Read more: After your immunisation.
  • 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.
  • Do not wrap your child in a blanket.
  • Keep the room cool and use a fan if you have one.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • The routine use of paracetamol is not recommended following vaccinations, but may be used if your child is miserable or distressed.
  • Tell your doctor if the fever persists.
  • Read more: After your immunisation.
  • 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.
  • Signs of an allergic reaction such as skin rash, itching, blisters, peeling skin, swelling of your face, lips, mouth or problems breathing
  • Allergic reactions to the flu vaccine are very rare.
  • If you develop these signs within a few days of the vaccination, tell your doctor immediately or call Healthline free on 0800 611 116.

Where can I get vaccinated?

The flu vaccination is available from:

  • many pharmacies
  • your family doctor/general practice
  • urgent care, accident and after-hours medical centres (but NOT at hospital accident and emergency departments)
  • some work places (check with your employer).

Please contact your healthcare provider about the cost of getting the flu vaccine.

Learn more

The following links have more information on the flu vaccine:

Frequently asked questions about the flu vaccine Health Navigator NZ
Flu (influenza) vaccines Ministry of Health, NZ
Influenza (flu) topics Health Navigator NZ

References

  1. 2022 influenza vaccines The Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
  2. Everything you need to know about flu 2022 The Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
  3. Influenza vaccines The Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
  4. Vaccine administration – overview The Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
  5. Eligibility criteria The Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ

Additional resources for healthcare professionals

Influenza vaccines NZ Formulary
Influenza information for health professionals The Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ

Credits: Health Navigator Pharmacists. Reviewed By: Maya Patel, MPharm PGDipClinPharm, Auckland Last reviewed: 31 Mar 2022