Over 2,500 Australians die each year from complications caused by influenza. Less than half the people most at risk of developing life threatening complications from influenza are being vaccinated annually.
Influenza is not a cold. It is a highly contagious disease, so these immunisation rates must be increased to protect the most vulnerable members of our community. They include the elderly, those with suppressed immunity of any age and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Why is influenza vaccine recommended?
Influenza is a highly contagious viral illness that can affect people of all ages. It is spread person to person by virus-containing respiratory droplets, produced during coughing or sneezing.
The influenza virus undergoes frequent changes in their surface antigen, which is the reason why the strain composition of influenza vaccine requires annual review. World Health Organisation issues recommendations for the annual influenza vaccine composition based on the circulating strains of influenza.
The attack rate of influenza may range from 5% - 30% of the population. It can be a debilitating disease causing fever, malaise, headache, myalgia, cough, nasal discharge and sneezing. Complications of influenza include bronchitis, otitis media, pneumonia, myocarditis, pericarditis or post-infection encephalitis. The disease can greatly affect a person’s quality of life. Work, study, sporting commitments, socialising, holidays and family life can all be affected if a person contracts the disease.
After vaccination most adults will develop antibody levels that protect them against the strains of influenza contained in the vaccine. The vaccines may cause local tenderness or soreness at the injection site for 1-2 days.
To protect persons that have a high risk of influenza morbidity it is recommended that people that come in to contact with them receive the influenza vaccine annually. This includes health care workers, nursing home staff and household members of high risk groups.
It is also recommended that persons who provide essential community services should be immunised to minimise the disruption of essential activities during influenza outbreaks.
Influenza usually has a short incubation period of one to three days. Immunity from vaccination may take two weeks to develop and the vaccine may not be effective in preventing the disease if the person has already been exposed to the virus.
Who should get immunised?
The Australian Immunisation Handbook 10th Edition recommends annual seasonal influenza vaccination for the following people:
Vaccination is recommended and FUNDED under the National Immunisation Program for the following groups of people;
- 65 years of age and over,
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 15 years and over,
- pregnant women and
- people from six months of age with underlying medical conditions which predispose them to the risk of complications from influenza.
General practices and child health clinics (for children less than five years of age) have supplies of funded vaccine for these groups of people. General Practice may charge a consultation fee.
Vaccination is recommended but NOT FUNDED under the National Immunisation Program for the following groups*;
- All contacts of persons at high risk of influenza morbidity to protect them from the disease, such as;
- All health care workers,
- Staff of nursing homes and long term residential facilities and
- Household members of high risk individuals.
- Any person who wishes to reduce the likelihood of becoming ill with influenza.
- Persons who provide essential community services to minimise disruption of essential activities during an influenza outbreak.
* Persons in these groups may be able to access vaccine through workplace vaccination programs.
Alternatively, influenza vaccine can be purchased via private prescription and administered by General Practice.
Reporting of Adverse Events Following Immunisation
Reporting of Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFI):
If you or a loved one experiences an AEFI, please phone (02) 6205 2300 or complete the form below:
Our Immunisation listing provides information about influenza immunisation services in the ACT and across Australia.
Seasonal flu vaccination in children aged less than 5 years
Children and Influenza
Current Australian immunisation guidelines recommend annual influenza vaccination for anyone who wishes to protect themselves against influenza, which includes children aged six months and older.
Children six months of age and over who have medical risk factors such as heart conditions, asthma and other lung conditions, diabetes, kidney problems & impaired immunity are eligible for free vaccine under the Immunise Australia Program.
It is recommended that household contacts of these children have seasonal influenza vaccine. The vaccine is not free unless the person is eligible under another category.
For more information see:
Influenza vaccines registered for children
Children aged between 6 months to less than 5 years are recommended to receive any of the available registered influenza vaccines: Vaxigrip®, Influvac®, Fluarix® or Agrippal®. Vaxigrip® is the vaccine provided free for high risk children through the Immunise Australia Program.
CSL Fluvax® vaccine is not registered for children less than five years of age.
There is a strong preference for the use of Vaxigrip®, Influvac®, Fluarix® or Agrippal® in children aged 5 years to less than 10 years.
For more information see