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Flu vaccinations in 2022 – what you need to know

09 May 2022

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Availability of vaccinations for 2022

As the temperature drops, influenza (flu) becomes more common in our communities. The good news is, we can help protect our health and play a part in reducing the spread by getting immunised.

It’s extra important this year, as medical experts warn that our natural immunity to the flu will be lower than in previous flu seasons. This is because New Zealand’s tight COVID-19 restrictions prevented the flu from entering and spreading throughout the country, so far less Kiwis have been exposed to the virus over the last two years.

As restrictions lift and our borders reopen, it means we could be in for a bad flu season…

The influenza immunisation programme runs between 1 April and 31 December 2022. It takes around two weeks for your flu vaccine to offer protection, so it’s important to prioritise your flu shot now, to look after your health and the health of those around you.

I’m perfectly healthy, why should I get immunised?

The influenza virus is always changing, so a new vaccine is developed each year to protect us against the most common variants. This means that even if you’ve had the flu or received the vaccine last year, you aren’t protected against this year’s virus. Vaccines usually cover the three or four strains that are expected to be most common during each flu season.

Even if you’re otherwise fit and healthy, there may be people in your community who aren’t. The flu is highly contagious and people with influenza may be infectious before showing symptoms, which means you could unknowingly pass the virus on to family and friends who are more vulnerable (including young children, elderly, people with chronic health issues or those who are pregnant) .

While most people recover from the flu in about a week, it can sometimes lead to serious health problems or a stay in hospital and in severe cases, be deadly.

The elderly, or people with certain medical conditions, like asthma or diabetes, are also more at risk of experiencing complications or worsening health problems as a result.

Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, headaches, a lack of energy, dry cough, sore throat and possibly a runny nose. The fever and achiness often last 3-5 days, but low energy and the cough can last for two weeks or more.

Getting immunised is one of the simplest, and most important things you can do to protect yourself, help stop the spread, and protect those who are more vulnerable.

Where can I go to get my flu vaccine?

2022 flu vaccines will be available from family doctors, GPs, accident and medical clinics (but not hospital departments), and certain pharmacies. To get vaccinated at your local pharmacy, you must be 13 years or older. You can find pharmacies offering flu shots near you, here.

If you think you’re at risk of having COVID-19, you shouldn’t attend a flu vaccination appointment. Make sure to test immediately, and follow appropriate COVID-19 self-isolation guidelines.

Flu vaccine NZ cost - do you need to pay?

If you meet the eligibility criteria, your influenza vaccination will be free. Otherwise, your vaccination provider will be able to confirm the cost to get vaccinated.

This year, even more New Zealanders are eligible for the free vaccine, including:

  • Māori and Pacific people aged 55 to 64 years
  • Pregnant people (any trimester)
  • People aged 65 years and older
  • People aged six months to under 65 years with certain medical conditions such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease or serious asthma
  • Tamariki aged four years or under who have been hospitalised for respiratory illness or have a history of significant respiratory illness.

Are there any people who should not get vaccinated?

The flu vaccine is not recommended for children under six months of age.

It may also not be suitable (or may need to be delayed) for people who are receiving certain cancer treatments or for those who have previously had a serious reaction to a flu vaccination. If you fit any of these criteria, you should consult your doctor before booking your vaccination appointment.

People with a chicken egg or latex allergy should have no issues getting the flu shot this year, as all brands for the 2022 flu season are free from latex and contain less than one microgram of ovalbumin (the main protein found in egg whites and the allergen people commonly have a reaction to ).

If you’re unwell, you should delay your appointment until you’ve recovered. Everyone else should book in to get their flu vaccination as soon as possible.

How does the vaccine work – and will it give me the flu?

The influenza vaccine can’t give you the flu, because it doesn’t contain a live flu virus.

By using the dead virus, the vaccine teaches your body what the flu looks like – enabling your immune system to create the right antibodies to fight it.

Usually, it takes around a fortnight for your body to build up this protection after receiving the vaccination.

What are the side effects of the flu vaccine?

Most people will have no reaction to the vaccine, but there are a few minor side effects, commonly experienced in the first 1-2 days after you receive your injection – and usually settle within a few days.

These can include:

  • Pain, swelling or redness around the injection site
  • Fever
  • Feeling unwell, tired or weak
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle ache
  • Headache

If these symptoms persist, or are causing concern, you should contact your doctor.

In very rare cases, you may develop an allergic reaction – which could include a skin rash, itching, blisters, peeling skin, swelling of your face, lips or mouth, or problems breathing.

If you develop any of these symptoms, you should immediately contact your doctor, or call Healthline on 0800 611 116.

Can I still get the flu even after I’ve been vaccinated?

Yes, it’s possible to get sick with the flu after getting vaccinated - although symptoms will usually be milder, and you’ll be far less likely to develop complications.

This is possible for a number of reasons:

  • You may have been exposed to the flu virus either shortly before immunisation, or during the fortnight it takes for the body to build up immunity.
  • You may have been exposed to a strain of the virus that is not covered by the vaccine.
  • The level of protection given by the flu vaccine varies from person to person – depending on a number of factors, including health and age.

Even though it doesn’t provide 100% protection, getting immunised is our best bet in keeping ourselves safe from the flu.

If I get the flu vaccination, will I also be protected against COVID-19?

No – the flu vaccination doesn’t provide protection against COVID-19. While symptoms might be similar, they’re two different viruses and need separate vaccines to keep you protected. If you catch the flu and COVID-19 virus at the same time, it can make you pretty sick so there’s benefit in getting your flu vaccination.

Can I get the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time?

Yes – you can get the flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine at the same time, or straight before or after each other. If you get the flu and COVID-19 vaccines together, they’ll be given to you in separate places on your arms and with different syringes.

It can also be a great time to catch up on other vaccinations, so check with your healthcare provider to see if there are others you might’ve missed.