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Everything you need to know about the 2024 flu vaccine 

Dr Hamish Black

nib Medical Advisor, Dr Hamish Black, explains why it's important to consider the flu vaccine this year.

Younger man getting a vaccination from a nurse in a clinical setting
Younger man getting a vaccination from a nurse in a clinical setting

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 2024 flu vaccine. 

Do I need to get the flu vaccine every year?

It's strongly recommended to receive a flu shot annually. The flu virus constantly mutates, leading to the emergence of new strains. Annually, the World Health Organization forecasts the four most anticipated flu strains, and vaccines are tailored to target them.

Your immunity typically builds up around two weeks after you receive the vaccination and reaches its peak about three to four months later. 

Several factors influence the vaccine's effectiveness each year, but it generally offers up to 60% protection against the flu. Moreover, it plays a crucial role in safeguarding people at higher risk of complications, such as pneumonia or hospitalisation due to the flu. 

“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,” says Hamish. 

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 that we’ll discuss in more detail further on in this article.

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 2024 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.  

For the 2024 flu season in Australia, the Australian Influenza Vaccine Committee looked at data on recent flu strains and decided which ones should be included in the vaccine. Based on their recommendations and those of the World Health Organization, the vaccine for 2024 includes new strains of the A (H1N1) and A (H3N2) viruses compared to last year's vaccine.

Are there different types of flu vaccines and can I choose which one I get?

Four influenza vaccines will be available under the National Immunisation Program in 2024. The vaccine you will receive will depend on age. Your health professional can tell you which vaccine they will use for you or your child’s immunisation. 

Will the 2024 flu vaccine protect me from COVID-19?

While the 2024 flu vaccine does not provide protection against COVID-19, it remains a an important way to safeguard your health. Not only will the vaccine help shield you from the more severe impacts of the flu, but also lowers your risk of getting both influenza and COVID-19 simultaneously.

“Getting the flu vaccine means you’re putting less people at risk – especially vulnerable groups – and reducing the burden on our healthcare systems,” Hamish explains.

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-19 wanes with time since the previous vaccine dose or infection. The current vaccination guidelines are: 

  • For people aged 75 years and older, a booster shot is recommended every 6 months. 

  • Those between 65 and 74 years are advised to get a booster shot at least every 12 months. You can get it every six months however it’s important to discuss with your healthcare provider to weigh the risks and benefits. 

  • Adults aged 18-64 years with severe immunocompromise are recommended to receive a booster shot at least every 12 months, with the option for every six months. Without severe immunocompromise, a booster shot can be taken every 12 months. 

  • For children and adolescents aged 5-17 years, a booster shot is recommended every 12 months for those with severe immunocompromise, while it's not recommended for those without severe immunocompromise. 

  • Children under 5 years of age are not recommended to receive a booster shot. 

 You can use the COVID-19 booster eligibility checker to check if you qualify for a COVID-19 booster shot.

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 August. The flu shot is most effective in the three to four months following vaccination, but it’s never too late to get the vaccine. 

”If you had last season’s flu vaccine late last year or early this year, you should still get the new season vaccine this year when it becomes available,” Hamish advises.

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.  

Hamish says severe allergic reactions to the flu shot are rare. To minimise and monitor any post-vaccine reactions, medical facilities who administer the flu vaccine ask that you stay for 15 minutes following your shot.  

If you experience symptoms of anaphylaxis, seizure, rash or have a reaction that you consider unexpected, go directly to your GP, nurse or hospital and inform them of your recent vaccination.

Related: We've busted some of the most common flu myths.

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 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 information throughout this article serve as broad information and should not replace any advice you have been given by your medical practitioner. 

Dr Hamish Black

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.