Influenza (flu) viruses change from year to year, forming new strains.
The flu vaccine changes every year as well.
Everyone aged 6 months and older should get vaccinated yearly. This will help prevent catching and spreading the flu.
Read more about the flu, symptoms and treatment.
Get the influenza and its prevention fact sheet from the Department of Health digital library.
How the vaccine works
The vaccine takes about two weeks to work and will last for around 12 months.
If you've had the flu vaccine in the past, you will:
- only be protected against the strains of flu in that vaccine
- not be protected against other flu strains.
For ongoing protection, you should get a new vaccine every year.
You can't catch the flu from having the vaccine as it does not contain any live flu virus.
It can take two weeks for the body to be protected. If you come in contact with someone with the flu during this time, you may still become sick.
Where to get vaccinated
You can a flu vaccination at any time from:
- general practitioners (GPs)
- health clinics
- selected pharmacies - if you're over 10 years old.
There is a fee or you may be eligible to get a free vaccine through the National Immunisation Program (NIP).
To be eligible for a free flu vaccine, you must fit into any of the following groups:
- anyone aged 65 years old and older
- all children aged six months to under five years old
- all Aboriginal people aged six months and older
- anyone aged six months and over with a chronic medical condition that may increase their risk of severe flu infection
- pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy - the vaccine can protect your baby for up to six months after birth.
For eligible risk groups, some GPs offer free vaccines but they may charge a consultation fee.
You can also check with your employer if they offer flu vaccination.
Find out more about the NIP on the Australian Government's Department of Health website.
If you have a chronic medical condition, you may be at greater risk of experiencing a severe flu infection.
Anyone aged six months and over with a chronic medical condition listed below may be able to access their annual flu vaccine for free at their local healthcare provider.
These medical conditions include:
- heart conditions such as:
- rheumatic heart disease
- cyanotic congenital heart disease
- coronary artery disease
- congestive cardiac failure
- chronic lung and breathing problems such as:
- severe asthma
- cystic fibrosis
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- chronic illness requiring medical follow-up or hospitalisation in the past year such as:
- chronic metabolic diseases
- chronic kidney disease
- chronic neurological problems such as:
- multiple sclerosis
- spinal cord injuries
- epilepsy and neuromuscular disorders
- people with low immunity who have:
- extended use of steroids or other immunosuppressive drugs.
If your medical condition is not listed above, you are still recommended to get an annual flu vaccine.
Aged care facilities
Everyone who enters aged care facilities must be vaccinated with the latest flu vaccine, unless they have an approved exemption.
Find out more on the Northern Territory Government's Coronavirus (COVID-19) website.
For more information, contact the Public Health Unit.
Last updated: 09 February 2021
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