Influenza viruses change from year to year, forming new strains.
In the Northern Territory (NT) there are more flu cases in March or April before the annual flu season in southern states.
Therefore it is important to be vaccinated against influenza as early in the year as possible.
Being vaccinated yearly is recommended to protect you against the current influenza virus.
Who can get the free vaccine
You are eligible for a free influenza vaccine if you fit into any of the following groups:
- everyone over 65 years old regardless of medical conditions
- Indigenous children and adults:
- all children over aged six months to five years
- all people over 15 years
- anyone aged six months and over with a medical condition that may increase their risk of severe influenza infection
- pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy - the vaccine protects the baby in the first six months of life.
If you have a medical condition not listed below, ask your health care provider if you are eligible to get the free seasonal influenza vaccine.
Heart conditions including any of the following:
- rheumatic heart disease
- cyanotic congenital heart disease
- coronary artery disease
- congestive cardiac failure.
Chronic lung / breathing problems including any of the following:
- severe asthma
- cystic fibrosis
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Chronic illness requiring medical follow-up or hospitalisation in the past year including any of the following:
- chronic metabolic diseases
- chronic kidney disease
Chronic neurological problems including any of the following:
- multiple sclerosis
- spinal cord injuries
- epilepsy and neuromuscular disorders.
People with lowered immunity including:
- extended use of steroids or other immunosuppressive drugs.
Your workplace may also offer you a free flu vaccination. Ask your employer for more information.
Where to get the free vaccine
Go to find a community care centre to see where you can get your free vaccination.
You can also get your free vaccine at an Aboriginal Medical Services clinic or a remote health centre.
Some general practitioners (GPs) offer free seasonal influenza vaccines to eligible risk groups, but they may charge a consultation fee.
Other people who should be vaccinated
If you don't have access to a free vaccine but you want to be vaccinated you should contact your GP or health centre for a prescription.
About the vaccination
The vaccine takes about two weeks to work and will last for about 12 months. For ongoing protection you should get a new vaccine each year.
You can't catch influenza from having the vaccine as it does not contain any live influenza virus. Because it takes two weeks for the body to be fully protected, if you have contact with someone with influenza during this time you may still become sick.
If you have had the flu in the past you will be protected against one strain of flu, but not the other strains found in the vaccine. So the influenza vaccine is recommended every year to protect you against the strains causing infections that year.
For more information contact the Centre for Disease Control.
Last updated: 28 November 2017