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Flu vaccinations

Influenza, or the flu, is caused by a virus which spreads easily from person to person. You can catch it by inhaling infected droplets or by touching contaminated objects and then your nose or mouth.1

The flu vaccine contains an inactive form of the virus. When injected, this virus induces you to make antibodies that protect you against strains of influenza expected to circulate in the coming flu season.


For some groups of people, catching the flu can result in serious complications.1 By studying recent influenza outbreaks (including the 2009 H1N1 pandemic), we now know a lot more about how to prevent and manage the flu. With a simple vaccination, you can protect yourself and others around you from catching it. For more information about the flu, click here.


How does the vaccine work?

The current flu vaccine contains extracts of protein from the H1N1 swine flu strain and from the two other most common flu strains. Once vaccinated, these proteins prompt your body to make antibodies to protect you from the virus.

This vaccine does not contain live virus and cannot give you influenza.2

How quickly you're protected after getting vaccinated varies from person to person. Generally, you'll start producing the antibodies that provide protection two weeks after vaccination. Protection is expected to last for at least one year,2 however, because the flu virus is constantly changing, it's important that you get vaccinated every year.

The best time to get the flu vaccination is in autumn, before the expected outbreak in winter. Each annual flu vaccine will protect you against the three or four strains of flu virus most likely to circulate that winter.


Are there people who should get vaccinated?

Everyone can get the flu vaccination. But those who are at serious health risk if they do catch flu are especially encouraged to do so.2

An annual flu vaccination is strongly recommended for:

  • pregnant women
  • parents and guardians of infants up to six months old
  • people with chronic conditions including:
    • heart disease
    • asthma and other lung diseases
    • cancer
    • diabetes
    • kidney disease
    • neurological disease
    • other chronic conditions (talk to your GP)
  • people who are severely obese
  • Indigenous Australians
  • frontline health workers
  • community care workers.

Am I eligible for a free flu shot?

Under the National Immunisation Program, flu vaccination is free for:3

  • people aged 65 and over
  • pregnant women
  • Indigenous Australians aged 15 and over
  • residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • anyone who is six months of age and over with a condition that predisposes them to severe influenza and/or who requires regular treatment for conditions such as heart disease, chronic respiratory disease, kidney disease, diabetes, impaired immunity and chronic neuromuscular diseases.

Where and how do I get vaccinated?

Influenza vaccinations are available from a range of locations including GP offices, vaccination clinics, hospitals and health centres.

If you're not eligible for a free flu shot, you can still get the flu vaccine with a non-PBS or private prescription which is not subsidised by the Government.4 So talk with your GP if you'd like to be vaccinated.


Further information

Immunise Australia



  1. Better Health Channel. Flu (influenza). [online] c2010 [last updated Feb 2011, accessed 15 Jun 2011] Available from:
  2. Get The Flu Shot Before The Flu Gets You: Brochure. [online] [last updated 10 Mar 2011, accessed 22 Jun 2011] Available from:
  3. Immunise Australia. Influenza (flu). [online] 2011 [accessed 22 Jun 2011] Available from:
  4. Department of Health and Ageing. New listings and changes 1 March 2010 [online]. 2010 Mar 1 [accessed 23 Mar 2011] Available from:

This information has been developed and reviewed for Bupa by health professionals. To the best of their knowledge it is current and based on reputable sources of medical research. It should be used as a guide only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical or other health professional advice.

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