What is the flu?
Flu (influenza) is caused by a virus which is spread through the air by fluids produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or by direct contact with these fluids on surfaces or objects. The flu virus is highly contagious and you usually experience symptoms 5 to 7 days after contact. Flu symptoms are not the same as common cold symptoms. Flu symptoms, which can last for weeks, are more severe and include high fever, muscular aches and pains, headache, coughing and sore throat. It is estimated that each year, flu contributes to an average of 13,500 hospitalisations and more than 3,000 deaths among Australians aged over 50 years.
Why should I have the flu vaccine?
Vaccination is the best defence against the flu. The flu vaccine stimulates the body to make antibodies, which fight the influenza virus. If you have been vaccinated, when you come into contact with the influenza virus, your body is better prepared to quickly destroy the virus, which helps to prevent you from getting the flu. Even if you are still unfortunate and get the flu, the vaccine reduces the severity of the virus. The flu can also worsen underlying medical conditions such as heart conditions, asthma and respiratory conditions, diabetes, kidney disease, impaired immunity and neuromuscular disease, giving these people an even higher risk of complications from the flu.
Who can have the flu vaccine?
A flu vaccination is recommended for all people aged over 6 months. Children aged eight years and under require two doses, at least four weeks apart in the first year they receive the vaccine. One dose of influenza vaccine is required for children aged nine years and over.
National Pharmacies is offering the flu vaccination service for people aged 16 years* and older. In South Australia there are clinics available for children aged 6 months – 15 years.
*18 years and over in Victoria and New South Wales.
Which flu vaccines are National Pharmacies offering?
National Pharmacies is providing a quadrivalent (4 strain) vaccine as part of their flu vaccination service.
What does the quadrivalent influenza vaccine contain?
The recommended composition of quadrivalent influenza vaccine for Australia in 2017 introduces a new A (H1N1)pdm09 like virus strain when compared to the composition of the trivalent and quadrivalent vaccines for Australia in 2016.
The quadrivalent influenza vaccine components for the Australian 2017 influenza season will contain the following:
- An A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1) pdm09 – like virus
- An A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2) – like virus
- A B/Brisbane/60/2008 – like virus (belonging to the Victoria lineage)
- A B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus
Who is administering the vaccination at National Pharmacies?
Flu vaccinations are administered by a qualified health professional and are only administered subject to a health assessment and consent prior to vaccination.
I have heard that the flu vaccine can give you the flu, is that true?
No, flu vaccines do not contain a live virus so therefore cannot give you the flu. What you can get is common mild side effects that are similar to flu symptoms.
I received a flu shot last year, do I need to get another one this year?
Yes. Immunity decreases over time and flu vaccination is needed each year to ensure you continue to be protected. The composition of the vaccine changes every year. Vaccination is recommended in Autumn (March-May) to allow time for immunity to be strengthened before the flu season starts.
I am fit and healthy so I will be fine without the flu vaccination.
Being fit and healthy does not protect you from the flu and it is still recommended that you get a flu vaccination.
Do I need to pay before receiving my vaccination?
Payment must be made prior to your vaccination. This can be done in store on the day. The members price for the vaccination is $15.99 and the retail price is $19.99.
Do I have to make a booking?
National Pharmacies have walk in appointments available at selected stores, subject to the availability of the vaccine and our health professionals. If you are interested in a walk in appointment, we do recommend that you call ahead to confirm the availability of the vaccine and health professional.
Do I need a valid Medicare card?
No, a Medicare card is not required.
What will be provided to me after my vaccination?
You will be provided with a vaccination record detailing the date of vaccination, the brand and the batch number of the flu vaccine administered.
How long will my appointment take?
Please arrive at the pharmacy 5-10 minutes prior to your appointment time to complete a health questionnaire form. Following your vaccination which will only take a few minutes, you will be required to remain in the pharmacy for 15 minutes to allow us to observe for any adverse reactions to the vaccination. Once you have been cleared, you will be able to leave the pharmacy.
Am I eligible for a free flu vaccination under the National Immunisation Program (NIP) from my GP?
As part of the Australian Government National Immunisation Program (NIP), a free flu vaccination is available from a GP for eligible people who face a high risk from influenza and its complications.
Eligible people include:
- Those aged 65 years and over
- Pregnant women (including those in the first trimester)
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 6 months up to 5 years
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 15 years of age and over
- People six months of age or older with medical conditions such as asthma, lung or heart disease, low immunity or diabetes that can lead to complications from influenza.
If you are eligible to receive your influenza vaccination under the NIP, please visit your local GP as vaccinations under the NIP cannot be administered in the pharmacy. It is important to note that while the vaccine is free, a GP consultation fee may apply.
Who is not able to have the flu vaccination?
There are some people that the flu vaccination may not be suitable for. If you fall into one of the categories below, please contact your GP prior to receiving the flu vaccination.
- Patients who currently have an illness resulting in a fever greater than or equal to 38.5oC
- People with a lowered immunity caused by either a medical condition or medical treatment.
- People who have had a severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis following a previous dose of the vaccine in question, or to a component of the vaccine.
- Patient with a history of Guillian Barré syndrome
- Patient with a bleeding disorder
- Patients with severe chronic diseases
It is important that before receiving the vaccine you make sure to tell your immuniser if you (or your child):
- Are unwell (have a temperature over 38.5˚C)
- Have allergies to any other medications or substances
- Have had a serious reaction to any vaccine
- Have had a serious reaction to any component of the vaccine
- Have had a severe allergy to anything
- Have had an severe allergy reaction to eggs – the virus used in the vaccine is grown in eggs
- Are under six months of age
- Have had Guillain-Barré syndrome.
If you have any concerns at all as to whether the flu vaccine is right for you, please contact your GP before receiving the flu vaccine.
Are there any side effects with the flu vaccine?
The flu vaccine can cause a range of common side effects including:
- Drowsiness or tiredness
- Muscle aches
- Localised pain, redness and swelling at the injection site
- Occasionally, an injection-site lump (nodule) that may last many weeks but needs no treatment
- Low-grade temperature (fever).
Common side effects following immunisation are usually mild and temporary (occurring only in the first few days after vaccination) and treatment is not usually required.
There is a very small risk of a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to any vaccine. This is why you are advised to remain in the pharmacy for at least 15 minutes following vaccination in case further treatment is required. Apart from anaphylaxis, other extremely rare side effects include febrile convulsions in children.
If the side effect following immunisation is unexpected, persistent or severe, or if you are worried about yourself or your child’s condition after a vaccination, contact your GP immediately, or attend your nearest hospital emergency room or, if required, call 000.
For all enquiries related to bookings (i.e. making, rescheduling or cancelling a booking as well as booking times) please contact the pharmacy in which you wish to receive your flu vaccination from. Walk in appointments may be available at the below stores. Please call your pharmacy to confirm:
- Australian Government, Dept Health and Ageing, Therapeutic Goods Administration. AIVC recommendations for the composition of influenza vaccine for Australia in 2017. Found at: http://www.tga.gov.au/aivc-recommendations-composition-influenza-vaccine-australia-2017 (Accessed 27 Oct 2016).