3 years ago

Influenza affects thousands of Australians every year and can result in serious illness and even death. While increased hand-washing and social distancing as a result of COVID-19 has led to a decline in Flu cases in Australia, health authorities are still encouraging everyone to get the fluvax, particularly with the recent easing of restrictions.

What is the flu?

The term ‘flu’ is often broadly and incorrectly used for a ‘cold’, however it’s important to understand the difference between a flu virus and a common cold. 

An influenza virus is highly contagious and has a number of different strains, which change every year. The flu can infect the nose, throat and in some cases, the lungs. The flu is more serious than the common cold as it can lead to pneumonia, croup and in severe instances, brain inflammation and even death. 

While symptoms can vary from person to person, they generally include:

  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea. 

Why is the flu vaccination important?

The Influenza vaccine – commonly referred to as a flu shot or fluvax – protects you against infection.  The vaccination prompts your body to develop antibodies to multiple strains of the virus, which in turn helps your body fight infection. 

Not only does the vaccination help to safeguard you during flu season, it also stops you unintentionally spreading it to someone else who may be more vulnerable or experience more severe symptoms. 

Under the National Immunisation Program, free flu vaccines are given to those who are at higher risk of complications (see list below of specific criteria). 

How does the vaccine work?

The influenza virus has many different strains, meaning that each year it will be different, and your vaccination from the previous year might not be able to protect you. Because of this, a new vaccine is developed every year. 

It’s important to note that the vaccine does not give you influenza as it doesn’t contain the live virus. It is recommended that you get the vaccination annually and before the beginning of ‘influenza’ season – which is generally from June to September – so now is the time to get it done! 

Who is it recommended for?

Health authorities suggest anyone over the age of 6 months should get the fluvax annually. However, it is particularly important for those who are more susceptible to catching it or at higher risk of complications. For this reason, the vaccination is free for:  

  • People aged 65 years and over 
  • Pregnant women 
  • All children between 6 months and 5 years of age
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 6 months and over
  • Those with medical risk conditions including (but not limited to): cardiac disease, chronic respiratory conditions, chronic neurological conditions, impaired immunity, children (6 months to 10 years) on long term aspirin therapy.

If you do not fall into any of these categories, you will need to book an appointment with your doctor to obtain a prescription. 

Are there any side effects?

There are some minor side effects from the influenza vaccine. They include:

  • Tiredness 
  • Muscle aches 
  • Pain, redness or swelling where you had the injection. You may also experience a nodule – a lump on the injection site. 
  • Low-grade temperature.

Where can I get the flu vaccination?

Flu vaccinations are available at Beach Street Family Practice. Please call us on 66 54 12 82 to book your spot or to find out if you’re eligible for a free vaccination. 

Before you get the flu vaccination, make sure you advise your doctor if you or your child are unwell (have a temperature over 38.5 degrees), have had a reaction to a vaccine in the past or have any other severe allergies.