Guide to the flu shot for 2020

Don’t let the flu make you vulnerable

Should I get a flu shot during the COVID-19 virus pandemic?

Yes – it is important to keep as healthy as possible during the current pandemic. As per government advice, a flu vaccination is highly recommended for everybody this year as the best defence against the flu. It is particularly important for healthcare workers and people in COVID-19 cluster hotspots because the flu symptoms that come with catching influenza are the same as COVID-19 and therefore may result in you needing a COVID-19 test and/or a period of self-isolation.

Also be careful to make sure getting your flu shot does not put you at risk of exposure to the COVID-19. Ochre Health Medical Centres, like many general practices, are screening patients online or over the phone first and then doing vaccinations in a safe way, in some cases outside the clinic.

Flu shots are safe for pregnant women and strongly recommended. It is best to get your flu shot at the same time as whooping cough vaccinations to protect your baby from both.

When should I get my flu shot?

Getting your flu shot as soon as possible is recommended. The main flu season is over winter, peaking between May and July. As the flu vaccine provides the best protection in the three to four months after it is received, April/May is therefore the ideal time to be immunised. Getting your flu shot soon will also reduce the burden on doctors and hospitals over winter, which will help the whole Australian healthcare system over this difficult time.

Am I eligible for a FREE flu shot?

The flu vaccine is free for:

  • Children from 6 months to 5 years of age
  • Indigenous people over 15 years of age
  • Anybody over 65 years of age
  • Pregnant women
  • People with a chronic disease (see further details below)

Remember the flu vaccine is safe (and highly recommended) for both children and pregnant women. 

Can I catch flu from the flu vaccine?

Dr Hamish Meldrum, GP Obstetrician and Ochre Health’s Director of Medical Services says, “The flu vaccine is not a live vaccine and therefore you cannot contract the flu virus from it. However, a small percentage of people may experience low-grade fevers and muscle aches after the shot. This is simply their immune system responding to the vaccine and the symptoms should clear up within a few days.” 

Can I catch flu from the flu vaccine?

Dr John Hall, Ochre Health’s Director of Medical Services says, “The flu vaccine is not a live vaccine and therefore you cannot contract the flu virus from it. However, a small percentage of people may experience low-grade fevers and muscle aches after the shot. This is simply their immune system responding to the vaccine and the symptoms should clear up within a few days.”

Is the flu vaccine safe if I’m pregnant?

The latest vaccines are safe at any stage of pregnancy for both mother and her unborn baby.

Dr Hall strongly recommends pregnant women get vaccinated this year. He says, “The flu vaccine is an important part of protecting mums and babies. If you are coming in for your whooping cough immunisation between 20 and 32 weeks of pregnancy, don’t forget to ask for your flu vaccine as well.”

If you had a flu shot while pregnant in 2019 and you are still pregnant, it is safe to have a second flu shot this year.

Does a chronic disease put me at greater risk of severe flu?

Yes, it does. For this reason, the government has made the free flu vaccines available for you.

People with chronic illnesses such as cardiac disease, chronic respiratory conditions, chronic neurological conditions, diabetes and other metabolic disorders, renal disease, haematological disorders and impaired immunity all qualify for a free flu vaccine. Ask your doctor if you are unsure whether your condition qualifies you for a free vaccine.

Why is the flu vaccine free for young children?

State and territory governments are providing free flu vaccinations for young children between six months and five years of age as they are more likely than adults to be hospitalised with a severe flu infection. The vaccines are both safe and effective for them. Protecting this age group of young children with vaccinations also helps to stop the spread of infection to newborn babies who are vulnerable and too young to receive a vaccination.

Go to www.ochrehealth.com.au and book your flu shot online.

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