Common questions people ask about the flu vaccine

Find your answers to frequently asked questions about the flu vaccine.

Click on the green link below to find the answer to your question.

What are the benefits of the flu vaccination?

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

  • Even if you catch the flu despite having the vaccination, your symptoms are likely to be milder and you are less likely to pass it onto others.
  • If you catch the flu, you are likely to have fewer sick days.
  • 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, such as very young children, older adults and people with long-term health conditions.

How well does the flu vaccine work?

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

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

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

Image credit: Health Navigator NZ

Why do I need a flu vaccine 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.

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

What flu vaccines are available this year (2022)?

The following flu vaccines are available in 2022:

  • Afluria Quad: For all ages from 3 years.
  • Afluria Quad Junior: For children aged 6–35 months (under 3 years)
  • Fluad Quad: For adults aged 65 and over
  • Fluquadri: For all ages from 6 months old. 

Read more about 2022 influenza vaccines.

If I’m fit and healthy, do I need to have the flu vaccine?

Although people with medical 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 is recommended that even fit and healthy people get the flu vaccine. 

Can I get the flu vaccine if I'm pregnant?

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

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

The flu vaccine has been proven to have an excellent safety record for both pregnant women and their unborn babies. Read more about pregnancy and immunisation.

Can I get the flu vaccine if I'm breastfeeding?

Yes, you can safely have the vaccine if you are breastfeeding. Getting yourself protected can help prevent you becoming infected and passing the flu on to your baby. Breastfeeding may also offer some protection to the baby. However, babies have more protection if you get vaccinated during pregnancy.

Can I get the flu vaccine if I have a cold?

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

Who can get the flu vaccine for free?

The flu vaccine is free for New Zealanders who are:

  • Māori 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 (children) aged 4 years or younger who have been hospitalised for respiratory illness (including measles) or have a history of significant respiratory illness.

Check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist if you qualify for a free flu vaccine. Read more about eligibility. 

Will the flu vaccine give me the flu?

The vaccine cannot cause the flu because it does not 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 with the vaccine. Contact your doctor if you have any more severe reaction to the flu vaccination or if you are at all concerned.

Do I need the flu vaccine if I am travelling?

Yes, studies have shown that the flu is the most commonly contracted vaccine-preventable disease among international travellers.

  • Flu outbreaks have been linked to travellers.
  • Certain types of travel where large numbers of people are likely to be in close proximity, such as cruise ship voyages or events that include mass gatherings, are particularly high risk.
  • In tropical countries, the flu can occur throughout the year, so vaccination is worthwhile regardless of the season.
  • In temperate climates in the northern hemisphere, the flu is more common between the months of December and March.

Can I have the flu vaccine if I have an allergy to egg?

Yes, the brands of the flu vaccine for the 2022 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 2022 flu season is below this limit.

Can I have the flu vaccine if I am taking anticoagulant medicines

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, apply firm pressure over the injection site, without rubbing, for 10 minutes to reduce the risk of bruising.

Can I have the flu vaccine if I have latex allergy?

Yes, all brands of flu vaccines for the 2022 flu season are latex free and safe to use if you have a latex allergy.  

Learn more

Influenza vaccine Health Navigator NZ
Influenza Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ

References

  1. Everything you need to know about flu 2022 The Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
Credits: Health Navigator Pharmacists. Reviewed By: Maya Patel, MPharm PGDipClinPharm, Auckland Last reviewed: 01 Apr 2022