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. It will greatly improve your chances of not getting the flu, but it does not give 100% protection.
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 first coming across a non-infectious version of the virus in the vaccine, it learns to recognise it. When it comes across it again, your body can react much faster and in a more effective way.
Even if you get the flu after being vaccinated, you usually get a mild form of it and recover faster, and are less likely to have serious complications.
Why do I need to get vaccinated every year?
You need to get the flu vaccine every year because protection from the previous vaccination becomes less effective over time. Each year the influenza viruses can change. The strains in the vaccine usually change each year in response to the changing virus pattern. 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 New Zealand, this is between April and June. It takes 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 it done early in time for winter.
If you become pregnant after winter and have not received the current flu vaccine, it is recommended that you have it by 31 December.
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:
pregnant women (any trimester)
people aged 65 years and over
people under 65 years of age with with certain chronic conditions, such as chronic heart disease, chronic liver disease, diabetes, cancer, asthma and COPD
children aged 4 years or under who have been in hospital for respiratory illness or have a history of significant respiratory illness, including children aged 6–59 months (under 5 years) who were hospitalised with measles.
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 your doctor may recommend postponing the vaccination until you are well.
If you have had the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, you should wait at least 2 weeks before having the flu vaccine. Note that you need 2 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. These are given at least 21 days apart. This means you will need to either have your flu vaccination 2 weeks before your first Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine or 2 weeks after your second Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Read more about about COVID-19 vaccine and flu vaccine.
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. Children 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 you for at least 20 minutes afterwards to make sure you don't have any reaction to the vaccination.
What about side effects?
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.
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.
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?
People eligible for a free flu vaccine Eligible people can get a free vaccination from their family doctor/general practice. It is usually the practice nurse who gives the vaccine. Many community pharmacies provide free flu vaccinations to people aged 13 years and older and pregnant women (any trimester).
People who are not eligible to receive a free flu vaccine The flu vaccination is available from:
Getting the flu vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and others from getting the flu.
You are likely to have fewer sick days and fewer days away from work or school.
Even if you still catch the flu despite having the vaccination, your symptoms are likely to be milder.
Having a flu vaccine every year can keep older people healthy and active for longer.
If you are pregnant, it protects you and your baby against the flu.
Even if you don't feel sick, without the vaccine you could still be infected with the flu and pass it on to others.
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?
The flu vaccine is not 100% effective. However, on average it halves the number of people who get the flu. This reduces the amount of flu circulating in the community, puts less pressure on healthcare services and leads to fewer admissions to hospital.
Those who respond least well to the flu vaccine are those who are at most risk of complications from the flu: very young children, older adults and people with long-term health conditions. This is why it’s a good idea for everyone else to get the flu vaccination – it’s a way to help the more vulnerable members of your community.
Dr Nikki Turner of the Immunisation Advisory Centre explains more about the effectiveness of the flu vaccine.
(Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ, 2016)
Why do I need a flu shot every year?
You need to get the flu vaccine every year because protection from last year's vaccine becomes less effective over time. 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.
The new vaccine is usually made available in early April. Get your vaccination before winter when the flu is around the most.
What flu vaccines are available this year (2021)?
The following flu vaccines will be available in 2021:
Fluad Quad: For adults aged 65 and over
Afluria Quad: For people aged 5–64 years
Influvac Tetra: For children aged aged 3–4 years
Afluria Quad Junior: For children aged 6–35 months
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, 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 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 in any trimester.
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.
Who can get the flu vaccine for free?
The flu vaccine is free for New Zealanders who are:
65 years and over
pregnant women (any trimester)
under 65 who have certain medical conditions
children aged 4 years or under who have been hospitalised for respiratory illness or have a history of significant respiratory illness.
Check with your doctor to find out if you qualify for a free flu vaccine. Read more about eligibility.
Where can I get vaccinated against the flu?
People eligible for a free flu vaccine
Eligible people can get a free vaccination from their family doctor/general practice. It is usually the practice nurse who gives the vaccine. Many community pharmacies provide free flu vaccinations to people aged 13 years and older and pregnant women (any trimester).
People who are not eligible to receive a free flu vaccine
Please contact your healthcare provider about the cost of getting the flu vaccine.
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 a day or two, and may include:
soreness, aching and/or redness at the injection site
tiredness, feeling a little unwell or having a mild fever.
These are signs your immune system is working with the vaccine. Contact your doctor know 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?
Whether or not you are at high risk for the complications of flu, you should consider getting a flu vaccination before travelling overseas because 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 2021 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 2021is below this limit.
Can I have the flu vaccine if I am taking anticoagulant therapy?
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?
Fluad Quad, Afluria Quad and Afluria Quad Junior syringes do not have any components made using natural rubber latex.
Influvac Tetra syringes do not contain any latex components. However, the manufacturer (Mylan) is unable to confirm that the product did not come in contact with any latex materials during the manufacturing and packaging process.
If you are highly sensitive to latex and have had a severe allergic reaction to latex, tell your healthcare provider before getting the flu vaccine.
All children from 6 months of age can benefit from yearly flu vaccination.
It is especially important, and free, for children with certain long-term health conditions, who may develop complications from the flu.
The flu (influenza) can be a serious and sometimes life-threatening viral infection – it's not the same as having a bad cold.
Even if your child is fit and healthy, they can easily catch the flu.
Regular hand washing, covering mouths when coughing and keeping sick people away from healthy people will also reduce the spread of flu.
Make sure your family is ready to prevent the flu each year – ask your nurse or doctor about flu vaccination, including its cost, or phone 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863).
How easy is it to catch the flu?
The flu virus is very easy to catch and can affect anyone –it doesn't matter how fit and healthy your child is. It can spread through the air by coughing and sneezing, as well as by hands, cups and other objects that have been in contact with an infected person's mouth or nose.
Can I do anything to prevent my child catching the flu?
Flu vaccination offers the best protection. It strengthens your child's ability to fight the flu. Regular hand washing, covering mouths when coughing and keeping sick people away from healthy people also reduces the risk of spreading the flu.
Which children need flu vaccination?
All children from 6 months of age can benefit from flu vaccination. By vaccinating your child, especially if they go to an early learning centre or daycare, you can protect them and your family/whānau.
Flu vaccination is especially important for children with certain long-term (chronic) health conditions. This is because these children are most likely to develop complications from the flu, such as chest infections. If your child does have a long-term condition, make sure they have their flu vaccination every year before winter starts.
When is the flu vaccination available?
In 2021, your child can have flu vaccination from 17 May.
Where is the flu vaccination available?
Your child can have their flu vaccination at your family doctor's and some pharmacies.
How many doses of the flu vaccine does my child need?
Children between6months and 9 years of age:
for their first flu vaccination, they need 2 doses, 4 weeks apart
they only need 1 dose if they have had a previous flu vaccination.
Children 9 years of age or older only need 1 dose.
Which flu vaccinations are available for my child?
Influvac Tetra: For children aged aged 3–4 years
Afluria Quad Junior: For children aged 6–35 months.
Is flu vaccination free for my child?
Your family doctor or practice nurse can tell you whether or not flu vaccination is free for your child. You can also phone the Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC) on 0800 466 863. If you do have to pay, it's around $30 but check the exact price with your family doctor, practice nurse or pharmacy.
Flu vaccination is likely to be free if you answer 'yes' to any of these questions
Does your child have asthma and regularly use a preventer medicine (brown, orange, red or purple inhaler)?
Is your child aged 4 years or under and has a significant respiratory illness or been in hospital for a respiratory illness (such as pneumonia, bronchiolitis, asthma)?
Does your child have a heart condition (such as congenital heart disease or rheumatic heart disease)?
Does your child have cancer?
Does your child have an ongoing chest (respiratory) condition, such as bronchiectasis or cystic fibrosis?
Does your child have diabetes?
Does your child have ongoing kidney (renal) disease?
Does your child have HIV or AIDS, an auto-immune disease or another immune deficiency?
If you answered no to the questions, there is likely to be a cost
If you answered 'no' to all these questions, there is likely to be a cost for flu vaccination for your child. Check with your nurse or doctor.
It's a good idea to have flu vaccination if you share a house with children who have long-term conditions
Flu vaccination is also recommended for people sharing a house with children and young people with long-term (chronic) medical conditions. The flu spreads rapidly within households and children are particularly efficient spreaders. It may not be free for household members. You could ask your employer about free or subsidised flu vaccinations, as many employers offer this to employees. Flu vaccination is free for some adults, eg, people over 65 years of age or with certain long-term conditions.
Should I have the flu vaccination if I'm pregnant?
Flu vaccination offers protection in pregnancy. Flu is likely to be more severe in pregnancy and can affect the mother and the unborn baby. Flu vaccination also offers some protection to the newborn baby.
Your child cannot get the flu from flu vaccination as there is no live virus in the flu vaccine. Many people confuse colds with the flu. There are many other viruses in the community that flu vaccination will not protect against.
Can flu vaccination make my child sick?
Most people have no reaction to flu vaccination. Anyone can have flu vaccination except people who have had a previous severe allergic reaction to flu vaccination in the past. Your child may have one or more of the following responses after the vaccination:
soreness, redness or swelling where the vaccine was given
These are usually mild and only last 1 or 2 days.
Can my child still get the flu even if they have had flu vaccination?
Vaccination is not 100% effective for all people, so some vaccinated people may still get the flu. If they do, symptoms are usually milder than if they had not had flu vaccination. If you'd like to know more about the effectiveness of flu vaccination, see theinfluenza immunisation information on the IMAC website.
Where can I get vaccinated?
The best place to go for vaccinations is your family medical clinic. They have your medical records and can check to see if you’ve already had a particular vaccination. Either your doctor or a nurse can give the vaccination.
If you don’t have a family doctor, you can go to one of the after-hour medical clinics. Ring them first to make sure they can help you with the vaccination you need.
You can find a clinic near you on theHealthpointwebsite. Put in your address and region, and under Select a service, click on GPs/Accident & Urgent Medical Care.
Vaccines on theNational Immunisation Scheduleare free. Other vaccines are funded only for people at particular risk of disease. You can choose to pay for vaccines that you are not eligible to receive for free.