Influenza, commonly known as flu, is a highly contagious disease caused by the influenza virus. Vaccination is the best protection against influenza, so for best protection against influenza, people are strongly advised to get the influenza vaccine every year. This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is advised to get the influenza vaccine as soon as it is available.
However, some groups of people are at higher risk of serious complications from influenza like:
- pregnant women (at any stage of pregnancy)
- children aged 6 months to less than 5 years
- primary school-aged children (pre-primary to year 6)
- people 65 years and older
People 6 months and older with medical conditions that put them at risk of severe influenza, including:
- heart disease
- kidney disease
- chronic respiratory conditions
- chronic illnesses that required regular medical attention or hospitalization in the previous year
- chronic neurological conditions
- impaired immunity
- children aged 6 months to 10 years receiving long-term aspirin therapy.
Even healthy people can get very sick with influenza. Most healthy people who get influenza are sick for a short time, but recover well.
However, as influenza is easily spread by coughing, sneezing, or touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your mouth or nose, you can spread germs to others. If you get influenza, complications may include high fever, pneumonia, worsening of other illnesses and sometimes death.
By getting vaccinated each year, you help to protect other people from getting sick with influenza, and those who cannot be vaccinated themselves, because if you do not catch influenza, you cannot pass it on to others.
The only reason not to have an influenza vaccine is following a severe reaction to a previous dose of influenza vaccine, or to any component of any vaccine. Allergic reactions to an influenza vaccine are rare. Speak with your doctor or immunization provider for advice. If you are unwell, talk to your doctor about whether to reschedule your vaccination.
It is possible to be exposed to influenza viruses shortly before getting vaccinated or during the two-week period after vaccination that it takes the body to develop immune protection. This exposure may cause you becoming ill with influenza before protection from the vaccine takes effect.
People may also mistake symptoms of other respiratory viruses for influenza symptoms. The influenza vaccine only protects against influenza disease, not other illnesses.
The influenza vaccine is available from immunization providers, it is safe because all vaccines available in America pass strict safety testing before being approved for use. You cannot get influenza from having an influenza vaccine as they make it from the killed virus, not living viruses.
Some people experience common reactions such as pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, low grade temperature, muscle aches and/or drowsiness. Any medicine, including the influenza vaccine, can have potentially serious side effects, such as severe allergic reaction. However, the risk of this is small.
Seek medical advice if symptoms continue or get worse.