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Everything you need to know about the 2022 flu vaccine

In partnership with Dr Hamish Black
Young blonde woman wearing a yellow shirt and receiving her flu shot from a GP

Do you really need to get a flu shot in 2022?

Young blonde woman wearing a yellow shirt and receiving her flu shot from a GP

You’re fit, healthy and haven’t had anything more serious than a chest cold in years. And you’ve been so busy focusing on COVID-19, the flu is probably the last thing on your mind.

So do you really need to get a flu shot in 2022? Is it worth the hassle?

According to the experts, it’s an overwhelming yes.

To help you make an informed decision, we’ve answered some of the biggest questions you might have about this year’s flu vaccine.

Getting vaccinated against the flu is a good idea every year, but it’s especially important this year. While we’ve had very low rates of flu in Australia for the past two years, experts are expecting higher numbers of flu infections in 2022.

“During the pandemic our social isolation has led to a decrease in transmissible diseases,” explains Dr Hamish Black, nib Group medical advisor. “However, we are now getting out and about with things returning to normal, including the return of travellers from overseas. So the rates of influenza [flu] this year will be far higher than the past two years.

“It is also more important than ever to get the flu vaccine to help avoid the scenario where you get both COVID and influenza at the same time and would likely be very sick if unvaccinated.”

Can I get a COVID vaccine at the same time as the flu vaccine?

If you haven’t been vaccinated for COVID yet, or you’re due for a booster, the Department of Health advises that you can be vaccinated for both the flu and COVID on the same day.

If you’re already COVID vaccinated, you might be feeling a bit ‘vaxxed out’, but it’s important to remember that COVID vaccination – or having had COVID – will not protect you against the flu. While COVID and the flu are both contagious respiratory illnesses, they are caused by different viruses

“COVID is an infection from a coronavirus where the flu is from the influenza virus,” Hamish explains. “The symptoms and spread are similar, but there is no proven protection from the flu from having had COVID or the COVID vaccine.

He adds, “In fact, if you are unwell with the flu or your lungs have been scarred by the flu, you are more likely to get COVID and vice versa. The best way to protect yourself from flu is with the flu vaccine.”

Being vaccinated against the flu in previous years won’t offer you protection this year, as your immunity from vaccination declines over time. Plus, the flu vaccine is updated every season.

“Every year the flu vaccine is altered because the predominant strain of the virus is different every year,” Hamish says. “Viruses – as with COVID – mutate, hence the different strains we have seen for COVID. The southern hemisphere flu vaccine is largely based on the predominant flu strain circulating through the northern hemisphere winter. This year there are four different flu strains in the flu vaccines available in Australia.”

Related: Your COVID-19 vaccine questions answered

The more people in the community who are vaccinated, the harder it is for the flu virus to spread. So by getting a flu shot, you are not only protecting yourself and those close to you, but also the wider community. It’s especially important to protect vulnerable people who cannot be vaccinated due to their age or other medical problems.

Related: How to stop everyone in your family from getting sick at the same time

There are three ways that the influenza virus can spread:

  • Airborne transmission. When infected people cough, talk or sneeze, the flu virus can pass into the air through droplets and then be breathed in by another person.

  • Direct contact with an infected person. This could be through shaking hands, kissing, or sharing food and drinks.

  • Contact with contaminated objects. The influenza virus can live on hard surfaces such as door handles, rails and benchtops for up to 24 hours. If you touch these contaminated surfaces or objects and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth, you can catch the flu.

Keen to do your bit to track the transmission of influenza? Join more than 140,000
participants by signing up to FluTracking today. By completing a weekly online survey that takes less than 15 seconds, you’ll help track influenza in your local community and nation-wide during flu season. For more information, head to the FluTracking website.

People at increased risk who are eligible for free vaccination under the National Immunisation Program include:

  • Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples aged six months and over   

  • Children aged six months to less than five years

  • People with certain ongoing (chronic) medical conditions aged six months or older

  • Pregnant women (vaccination is safe at any time during pregnancy and gives protection to both mother and baby)

  • People aged 65 years or older.

If you don’t fall into any of those categories, the cost can vary depending on the type of vaccine, formula and where you purchase it from. You can expect to pay anywhere from $15-25. Find out where to get the vaccine here, and chat to your GP if you have any questions.

Related: 6 reasons I wish I got the flu shot

Peak flu season is June to September, so experts recommend getting your shot anytime.

As you can catch the flu at any time of the year, it’s never too late to get your flu shot.

Mild side effects, such as soreness at the injection site, are not uncommon. There may also be some swelling and redness where you had the injection. Less common side effects can include fever, tiredness and muscle aches. But side effects usually last only a day or two.

Related: 6 flu myths debunked

Avoid close contact with others

Keep your distance from others (at least 1.5 metres), particularly if you are feeling unwell, to
help reduce the chance of spreading the flu to other people.

  • Practice good cough etiquette - Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.

  • Throw tissues straight into the bin - Don’t leave them lying on a bedside table or on the floor.

  • Wash your hands frequently - Wash your hands with soap after blowing your nose, helping a sick child with a runny nose, throwing away used tissues or rubbing your eyes.

This winter, the last thing you need is to be infected by two different viruses – COVID-19
and influenza – so be sure to get vaccinated. By doing so, you’ll be not only protecting
yourself and your loved ones, but also vulnerable members of your community.

For more on protecting yourself from influenza, check out our articles How to increase immunity and avoid the flu this year and 6 reasons I wish I got the flu shot.

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Dr Hamish Black

Dr Hamish Black

In partnership with

Dr Hamish Black

Dr Hamish Black has been a medical practitioner for more than 25 years. In addition to his role as nib group medical advisor, he still spends two days a week practising as a GP. He has spent many years working in emergency departments and in rural Australia, including a stint with the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Hamish also loves karaoke and dancing (though not that well at either, he says!), with Play that Funky Music by Wild Cherry being his karaoke favourite.