Everything you need to know about the 2023 flu vaccine
nib Medical Advisor, Dr Hamish Black, explains why it's important to consider the flu vaccine this year
In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, “vaccine fatigue” is real. While many of us may not feel motivated to get another shot, it’s more important than ever to get the influenza (flu) vaccine this year. Here, nib Medical Advisor Dr Hamish Black explains why and answers all your burning questions about the 2023 flu vaccine.
Do I need to get the flu vaccine in 2023?
According to Australia’s leading health authorities and medical experts, the answer is a resounding yes. Hamish explains:
Rates of the flu in Australia have been increasing since international borders were opened in 2022.
“With such a hard focus on COVID, we have become a bit less concerned about influenza, which kills at least 6000 people each year in Australia. The rates of flu immunisation – and therefore immunity – decreased during the pandemic.
“As we learnt during the pandemic, the rates of transmission of communicable diseases are driven down by large numbers of the population being immunised. By getting immunised, we aren’t just protecting ourselves with the use of a safe and effective vaccine, but we’re also helping to protect those who are vulnerable to becoming seriously unwell with influenza. These include the aged, young, pregnant, immunocompromised and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”
Who should get the flu vaccine?
Getting vaccinated against the flu once a year is recommended for all Australians aged six months and over. The only people who should avoid getting the flu vaccine are those who have had anaphylaxis after a previous dose. The Australian Immunisation Handbook strongly recommends vaccination for the vulnerable groups listed below.
Is the flu vaccine free?
The flu vaccine is free under the National Immunisation Program (NIP) for people who are at higher risk of getting seriously ill, including:
Children aged six months to under five years
Pregnant women (at any stage of pregnancy)
People aged 65 and over
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months and over
People aged six months and over who have chronic (ongoing) medical conditions that make them susceptible to becoming seriously ill with the flu.
If you don’t fall into one of these categories, you can expect to pay between $15 and $30 for your flu vaccine.
How is the 2023 flu shot different to previous years?
Every year, the vaccine changes to cover the most strains of flu expected to be most common in Australia.
“This year, a new H1N1 [swine flu]-like virus strain has been added,” notes Hamish.
Can I get the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time?
“COVID and flu vaccines can be given at the same time and it’s a good idea to do that to avoid an extra visit to the doctor,” says Hamish. “It’s generally a good idea to book in to have the COVID vaccine as this is still manufactured in multidose vials, whereas the flu vaccine can often be given as a walk-up patient.
“Immunity to COVID wanes with time since the previous vaccine dose or infection. The current guidelines are to have a booster in 2023 if it’s been more than six months since your last vaccination or infection and you’re 65 years and over, or you’re 18 and over with comorbidities predisposing you to severe COVID.”
When should I get the flu shot?
You can get vaccinated anytime from April onwards to protect yourself during the peak flu season from June to September. The flu shot is most effective in the three to four months following vaccination, but it’s never too late to get the vaccine.
Where can I get the flu shot?
Vaccination providers include GPs, chemists, local council immunisation clinics (where available), community centres, Aboriginal Medical Services and high schools. Head to Healthdirect’s free service finder to find a list of providers in your local area. Not all providers can provide free NIP vaccines, so make sure to ask if they do before booking.
Does the flu shot cause the flu?
No. The flu vaccine is “inactivated” – meaning it doesn’t contain the live virus – so it won’t give you the flu. A small proportion of people get side effects including muscle aches, tiredness and fever after getting the flu shot. They generally last a day or two and go away on their own.
How is the flu spread?
When people who have the flu talk, sneeze or cough, they release tiny droplets of fluid containing the virus into the air. Others can catch the flu by breathing in these droplets, touching an infected person or touching a surface on which droplets have landed. The flu virus can survive for up to 48 hours on hard surfaces.
How to stop the spread of the flu
The most effective way to stop the spread of the flu is to get vaccinated. You can also minimise the spread by following these tips:
Wash your hands frequently, especially after coughing or sneezing.
Cover coughs and sneezes.
Clean surfaces regularly, including your phone, keyboard and door handles.
Throw away your used tissues immediately.
Avoid sharing personal items such as cups, cutlery and towels with others.
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.
Please note: The tips throughout this article serve as broad information and should not replace any advice you have been given by your medical practitioner.
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Dr Hamish Black
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.