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What you need to know about flu shots in 2020

We answer your questions about the flu vaccine in the age of COVID-19.

patient about to get a flu shot from doctor
Last updated: 25 March 2020

Need to know

  • Everyone over 6 months old is now advised to get the flu vaccine, except for those who are allergic or already ill 
  • The flu shot does not give you the flu
  • The flu vaccine won't protect you from COVID-19, but a reduction in flu infections will help relieve the strain on the medical system

No one enjoys being knocked out with the flu, but for some people the symptoms can be far worse than a few miserable days in bed.

In 2019, around 313,000 confirmed cases were officially reported, up on Australia's 2017 season which saw over 250,000 cases, making it our worst flu season on record. 

Experts are still unsure exactly what caused such a bad season last year, but it was likely a combination of factors such as international travel, climatic conditions and a prolonged season lasting right up until October. 

From 1 May 2020, if you haven't had a flu shot, you won't be able to visit a nursing home or aged care facility

With coronavirus (COVID-19) circulating, vaccinating for the flu is more important than ever to help reduce the burden on our health system while services are managing the COVID-19 outbreak.

And in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Australia's community flu reporting has also started early to help track the spread of flu.  

There are new, age-specific vaccines available in 2020 and health authorities are encouraging all people, from six months old and up, to get vaccinated. 

The government has also brought in new restrictions in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. From 1 May 2020, people who have not had a flu shot will not be able to visit a nursing home or aged care facility.

Flu shots at a glance:

  • Flu viruses are constantly mutating, so the flu vaccine changes every year to keep up with the most common strains.
  • Getting an annual flu shot is the single most important and effective measure in preventing the illness.
  • The vaccine isn't 100% effective, but if you do get the flu, being vaccinated should help reduce the severity of symptoms.
  • Vaccination also helps prevent its spread through the community – the more people who are vaccinated, the better.
  • The protection develops two weeks after getting the injection and lasts several months.
  • The ideal time to get a flu shot is late April to early May.
  • People aged 6 months to less than 5 years, 65 and over, all Indigenous Australians over 6 months, people with certain medical conditions and pregnant women can get a free flu vaccine.
  • Enhanced vaccines that provide better protection are available for people 65 and over.

FAQs

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More information

If you would like to be involved with the Australian and New Zealand community influenza tracking program you can sign up to FluTracking.