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Everything you need to know about the 2021 flu vaccine

A woman sitting up in bed blowing her nose

Getting a flu vaccine has become even more important

A woman sitting up in bed blowing her nose

You’re fit, healthy and haven’t had anything more serious than a chest cold in years. You’ve been socially distancing and following all the guidelines the Government has recommended – and with COVID-19, the flu is the last thing on your mind.

So do you really need to get a flu shot in 2021? 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.

In 2021, the situation is still far from normal, hence getting vaccinated against influenza is the most effective way to protect yourself. There’s also a possibility of a ‘rebound’ season this year. Reasons could be an absence of flu-related herd immunity or relaxation in COVID-19 related social distancing norms.

In Australia, two COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be available in early to mid-2021. There is no order for receiving a flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccines; however, they do need to be substantially spaced apart. Your GP or other qualified health practitioner will be able to guide you on the best time to receive each vaccine.

Related: Your COVID-19 vaccine questions answered

A young boy about to get his flu vaccine

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:

  1. 1

    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.

  2. 2

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

  3. 3

    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 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.

Related: 6 reasons I wish I got the flu shot

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 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 make sure you follow hygiene and distancing recommendations, eat well and be sure to get your vaccine. 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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