Flu vaccine

Each year influenza (flu) vaccine is developed to protect you against the most common strains of flu. Flu can be very serious leading to complications such as pneumonia, myocarditis (inflammation of the heart), neurological conditions and other bacterial infections.

Vaccine recommendations

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a highly infectious viral illness caused by influenza A or B viruses.

Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself against the flu. Vaccination makes it less likely you will suffer from serious illness or need to be hospitalised.

The flu vaccine is recommended for any person six months of age and over to reduce the likelihood of becoming ill with the flu.

The National Immunisation Program (NIP) provides free flu vaccinations for those most vulnerable to flu in our community. Eligible groups are:

  • all children aged six months to less than five years
  • people aged 65 years and over
  • pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy
  • people aged six months and over with medical risk factors
  • all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months and over.

Adults and children experiencing homelessness and who are not eligible for free flu vaccines under the NIP are eligible for a free flu vaccine under a state funded influenza program.

Although not funded, the flu vaccine is also strongly recommended for:

  • people who may potentially pass on the flu to those at high risk of complications from flu infection
  • people providing essential services (for example, police and ambulance officers)
  • workers in other industries (corporations wishing to reduce absenteeism in the workforce).

2023 funded flu vaccines

All funded vaccines available for use in Australia for the 2023 flu season are quadrivalent (four strains- two influenza A and two influenza B) and contain the following strains:

  • an A/Sydney/5/2021 (H1N1) pdm09-like virus
  • an A/Darwin/9/2021 (H3N2)-like virus;
  • a B/Austria/1359417/2021 (B/Victoria lineage)-like virus; and
  • a B/Phuket/3073/2013 (B/Yamagata lineage)-like virus.

These influenza vaccines are available for free through the 2023 NIP depending on eligibility:

  • Vaxigrip Tetra® – for all those from 6 months to 64 years of age
  • Fluarix® Tetra - for all those from 6 months to 64 years of age
  • Afluria® Quad - for those 5 years to 64 years of age
  • Fluad® Quad for those 65 years of age and over.

All children six months to less than nine years of age receiving flu vaccine for the first time should receive two doses at least one month apart to improve their immune response. Otherwise, if a child in this age group has received at least one flu vaccine in a previous flu season they only require one dose each subsequent year.

For further information about the funded flu vaccines available through the National Immunisation Program see the 2023 Annual Influenza Program (PDF 333KB).

How the vaccine is given

Flu vaccine is given as an injection into the thigh if under 12 months of age, and into the top of the arm from 12 months of age.

A flu vaccine can be given at the same time as a COVID-19 vaccine.

People with allergies

People with egg allergy, including a history of anaphylaxis, can be safety vaccinated with flu vaccines. You do not have to be vaccinated in a hospital setting. Speak to your immunisation provider about your allergy.

All 2023 funded flu vaccines available in Australia are latex free.

Possible side effects

Like any medications, the flu vaccine can have some minor and short lasting side effects.

Common side effects may include:

  • pain, redness and swelling at the injection site
  • drowsiness, tiredness or irritability
  • muscle aches
  • low grade fever of 37 to 38 degrees Celsius.

Some side effects may appear as ‘flu-like’ symptoms, but all flu vaccines currently available in Australia do not contain live virus and cannot cause the flu.

Rare side effects may include a severe allergic reaction.

If you are concerned or worried, seek further advice from your doctor, immunisation provider, SA Health’s Immunisation Section or healthdirect Australia.

Any unexpected event following immunisation should be reported to SA Health.

Reducing the side effects of the flu vaccine

Many of the common side effects can often be reduced by:

  • drinking extra fluids
  • resting
  • taking paracetamol as per the instructions
  • not overdressing if you are already hot.

Where to get immunised

To receive the annual flu vaccine, contact your doctor, local council, community health centre, Aboriginal health centre or an approved pharmacy. For further information on immunisation providers, see the Immunisation services page.

Availability of flu vaccines

Funded flu vaccine availability varies depending on when the vaccine is available from the manufacturers and the Commonwealth Government. Several brands of flu vaccine from different manufacturers are used, and they become available at different times.

Check with your immunisation provider to find out when they will have the vaccine available and when you can book in to have the vaccine.

Further information

For further information on immunisation providers, see the Immunisation services page.