Last year, there was reduced circulation of the influenza virus due to closed borders, social distancing, mask wearing, hand sanitisation and working from home activities.
This year, as we open up our borders to both interstate and international visitors, there is a greater chance of flu circulating amongst the population. Therefore, health authorities urge Australians to get vaccinated against influenza to avoid a flu season coinciding with the ongoing pandemic, which would put more pressure on our healthcare system.
The Australian Government’s COVID-19 vaccine booster national rollout is currently running for eligible people. The flu vaccination season will run concurrently with this vaccination program. If you are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine booster and are unsure about receiving both vaccines at the same time, speak to your doctor regarding the best time for your flu vaccine and your COVID booster.
Many pharmacies are administering both the COVID-19 vaccine booster and the 2022 flu vaccine which may place increased demand on services and booking availability.
In addition the South Australian government has allowed, for the first time in 2022, flu vaccines to be administered to eligible people under the National Immunisation Program (NIP), previously delivered by doctors and council clinics.
We will be monitoring news regarding the impending COVID-19 vaccine booster roll out, the NIP program and how they may affect flu clinics in our participating pharmacies. In the meantime, please remember to rely on state and federal health authorities, your general practitioner and pharmacist for guidance.
Influenza or the “flu” is caused by a respiratory virus which spreads from person to person through the air when someone sneezes, coughs or talks. Surfaces can also become contaminated with the virus if these surfaces are contaminated by droplets spread through sneezing or coughing, or if these surfaces are touched by unwashed hands. If you then touch a contaminated surface you can infect yourself if you subsequently touch your mouth or nose. The flu virus is highly contagious and symptoms usually appear 5-7 days after contact. These symptoms can last for weeks and are different to the common cold: they are generally more severe and include high fever, muscular aches & pains, headache, coughing and sore throat. It is estimated that each year, flu contributes to an average of 13,500 hospitalisations and more than 2,000 deaths among Australians in the last 10 years1.
Having the flu vaccine helps protect yourself and those around you, especially those who are too sick or too young to be vaccinated, medically vulnerable persons, as well as other people including those who are pregnant, or aged over 65.
The flu vaccination is the most effective way for preventing and stopping the influenza virus from spreading. The flu vaccine stimulates the body to make antibodies which fight the influenza virus. While no vaccine is 100% effective, it can:
The flu vaccine won't protect against COVID-19, but it may help to reduce the severity and spread of seasonal influenza, which can lower a person's immunity and make them more susceptible to other illnesses (like COVID-19).
Health authorities would like to minimise the number people presenting at GP clinics or their local hospital with seasonal flu to take pressure off the health system, and to reduce the risk of unwell people also catching other viruses including COVID-19.
Influenza is not just a bad cold – it is a highly contagious virus, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death, particularly in the elderly (over 80 years of age). It can cause normally healthy people who contract the virus to suffer symptoms like extreme exhaustion, high fever, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, headache, cough with muscle and joint pain that can remain for weeks. Generally people have to take time off work and household duties, and some people are even hospitalised. The flu can also worsen underlying medical conditions such as heart conditions, asthma and respiratory conditions, diabetes, kidney disease, impaired immunity and neuromuscular disease, giving these people an even higher risk of complications from the flu.
Furthermore, even if you get a milder case of the flu, you can still pass it on to someone who may have one of those underlying conditions, and their experience of the virus may be much more debilitating.
Each year the Australian Influenza Vaccine Committee approves the use and composition of flu vaccines in Australia, as they vary from year to year. Flu vaccines in Australia do not contain any live virus and stringent safety testing is conducted to ensure the new vaccine is safe for use. The person who vaccinates you will also check your suitability for a flu vaccination prior to vaccinating you.
As the strains of viruses responsible for seasonal influenza mutate or change each year, the vaccine composition is modified each year to reflect the strains circulating at the time, and therefore must be given annually to offer the best protection.
In Australia, peak flu season is in the winter months, and the flu shot will normally provide you with immunity during this time. The Australian Government’s Immunisation Handbook states that, “optimal protection is within the first 3–4 months after vaccination. Deferring vaccination to the beginning of winter may result in greater immunity later in the season, but may also result in missed opportunities for vaccination and lack of protection if the influenza season starts early”2.
This a common misconception – no, the flu shot does not give you the flu. There is no live virus in the influenza vaccines used in Australia. In rare cases, if someone is exposed to the flu virus just before having their vaccination, it may still develop as the vaccine takes about two weeks to develop full immunity.
No, the flu vaccine cannot protect against COVID-19, as the COVID-19 virus is completely different to the influenza viruses, even though some symptoms might be similar. Additionally, a COVID-19 vaccine will not protect you from being infected with the flu3.
It is possible to contract both Covid and influenza at the same time. Co-infections with Covid and other diseases have occurred around the world since the pandemic began4.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has advised that a flu vaccine can be given at any time before, after or with a COVID-19 vaccine including boosters5 6.
Some pharmaceutical companies are in the process of developing a combined flu and Covid vaccine into the future. If you are unsure about having both vaccines together or on the same day, please speak to your GP or pharmacist for more information.
The National Immunisation Program is an Australian Government initiative that offers free vaccinations under Medicare at different stages of life, or to certain members of the community, such as pregnant women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and those with specific health conditions, through authorised vaccinators. Visit SA Health or speak with your doctor to see if you are eligible.
Who is eligible under the National Immunisation Program?
In 2022, pharmacies in South Australia will be considered authorised NIP vaccinators for the flu vaccine, but to only highlighted (*) groups. Some Health Partners participating pharmacies maybe involved in the NIP program this year, please contact your pharmacy to confirm their participation.
The free flu vaccination has been made available by the South Australian Government at GP’s and Pharmacies until 30 June 2022. Find out more.
Book online or contact the pharmacy directly to make an appointment or ask about clinic times. Some may also accept non-appointment based walk-ins after clinic times, however there may be a wait depending on demand. Find your nearest Health Partners participating pharmacy here.
No, a prescription is not required.
No, a Medicare card is not required to receive the flu vaccination.
The best time to vaccinate is in autumn, but the flu vaccine can be given at any time during the flu season while the vaccine is available. It is effective from 2 weeks post vaccination for approximately 4 months.
Health Partners is offering members free flu shots at participating pharmacies from 1 March to 31 August 2022. Pharmacies will start their clinics when they receive vaccine stock, which is usually mid to late March. You can book online in advance.
Specially trained pharmacists are able to administer flu vaccinations, as they do Covid vaccinations. Each Australian state determines which vaccinations pharmacists can administer and to what ages. All states permit appropriately trained pharmacists to vaccinate for influenza8 and Covid. Some pharmacies may also employ the services of a nurse practitioner or doctor to do the vaccinations.
The injection itself will be done before you know it, but it is recommended you wait nearby for about 15 minutes afterwards, so you can be monitored by pharmacy staff in the unlikely event of a reaction.
Most people will just experience some soreness around the injection site, but some will also experience a mild fever, tiredness or body aches9.
For any mild side effects that are experienced, they can often be reduced by:
Depending on the severity, people with an egg allergy, including a history of anaphylaxis, can be safely vaccinated with the influenza vaccine. We recommend that you chat to your pharmacist or GP to discuss your requirements.
In May 2022, legislation passed in South Australia permitting pharmacists to vaccinate children over the ages of 5 (previously, the minimum age was 10 years), so children over the age of 5 can be vaccinated at participating pharmacies. However given this is very new change, many pharmacies are not ready to vaccinate children between the ages of 5 and 10 years at this stage. Please call your pharmacy to check whether they are vaccinating children of this age. In the interim, children aged between 5 and 10 can still see their GP as a normal visit for a flu vaccination. Check with your GP clinic as to how they charge for your child’s flu vaccination.
Children between 6 months and 5 years can also receive the flu vaccination for free as part of the National Immunisation Program (NIP) at their doctor’s clinic. Children aged between 5 and 10, if they are medically at risk, are also eligible for a free vaccination under the NIP. Please speak with your GP or pharmacist, or see the SA Health website for more information.
Based on World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations; the Australian Influenza Vaccine Committee (AIVC) have recommended quadrivalent influenza vaccines for the 2022 southern hemisphere influenza season10.
Egg-based quadrivalent influenza vaccines:
The vaccine for over 65s is an adjuvanted (or enhanced) vaccine which contains the same components as the vaccine provided for other age groups but has the benefit of inducing a greater immune response in older people.
Please refer to your GP or pharmacist for more information about what vaccine is best for your situation.
Like 2021, there is a cell based flu vaccine for 2022. Flucelvax Quad is a quadrivalent cell-based influenza vaccine based on new mammalian cell technology as opposed to traditional flu vaccines developed in embryonic chicken eggs.
Given they do not use egg in their manufacture, they may be more appropriate for those patients with egg allergies. This vaccine is more expensive and is not included on the government’s National Immunisation Program. Speak to your GP as to whether this flu vaccine is suitable for you.
Health Partners is not covering this vaccine in its Free Flu vaccine program for 2022.
There are some people that the flu vaccination may not be suitable for. If you fall into one of the categories below, please contact your doctor prior to receiving the flu vaccination.
Health Partners have paused the free flu shot for member’s promotion during the South Australian Government initiative period to avoid any confusion.
No, this is a South Australian Government initiative available to all South Australians.
Under the SA Government initiative if you are a South Australian aged between 5-64 years of age you will have access to receive the 2022 flu vaccination free of charge.
Flu shots are being funded via a subsidy scheme for South Australian GPs and pharmacists to provide free access to flu vaccinations to those individuals not already eligible under the National Immunisation Program.
No payment will be required.
The National Immunisation Program (NIP) provides free flu vaccinations for those most vulnerable to flu in our community and these groups are:
Stock availability will vary per pharmacy which may cause longer than usual wait times for flu vaccination booking availability.
Pharmacies reserve the right to only vaccinate individuals aged between 16 and 65 years.
Pharmacies reserve the right to only vaccinate adults aged over 18 years.
Some pharmacies will choose not to vaccinate children under 10 due to clinical reasons.
Clinic session days and times vary from store to store.
Health Partners is in no way involved in the management of these clinics.
Health Partners does not cover any NIP (National Immunisation Program) costs that may be incurred in a pharmacy vaccination clinic.
Clinic bookings available on a first come first serve basis due to high demand.
© Copyright Health Partners. 2022 All Rights Reserved.
© Copyright Health Partners. 2022 All Rights Reserved.