While social distancing helped keep flu numbers low during the COVID pandemic, we are now out of lockdowns and the 2023 flu season in Australia will be here soon.
Do you have concerns about flu vaccine side effects preventing you from scheduling your shot? Here, our health experts offer answers to the most common questions about flu shot side effects to help allay any worries you might have.
Not only is getting a flu shot safe, it’s also effective. Along with regular handwashing and social distancing, getting the annual influenza vaccine is key in protecting you, your family, and your community during flu season.
Influenza vaccination is strongly recommended by the Department of Health for everyone, and most Australian states and territories have made the decision to offer flu vaccinations free for everyone to encourage people to get the shot.
Here we answer some of the most common questions about flu vaccine side effects and the flu shot in 2023:
1. What are common side effects of the flu vaccine?
Some of the most common flu shot reactions include:
- Headaches (high grade)
- Redness, pain and swelling at the injection site
These flu shot side effects happen because your immune system is working to build its defences. While they might be uncomfortable, they are a sign that your body is preparing to protect you from the flu.
2. How long might flu shot symptoms last?
Side effects to the influenza vaccine typically onset within 12-24 hours after vaccination. Symptoms can last from several hours up to two days after vaccination.
3. Is It possible to have an allergic reaction to a flu shot?
Yes, it is possible to have an allergic reaction to a flu shot, though it is quite rare. Some people may be allergic to certain ingredients in the vaccine, like egg protein or other components. If you have a history of severe allergies or have had a reaction to a vaccine before, it’s important to talk to your doctor before getting a flu shot. They can help determine if it’s safe for you and discuss alternative options if needed.
Anaphylaxis is an extremely rare and serious allergic reaction, and anaphylaxis in response to vaccines affects less than 1 in a million people.
Anaphylactic reactions are also immediate which is why clinics advise people to wait in the centre for 15 minutes after their vaccination so that they can get immediate treatment if needed.
4. What symptoms should be concerning to me after a flu shot?
After your flu shot, if you are having difficulties breathing, experience fainting, seizures or have a temperature over 40 degrees, call triple zero.
Any other unexpected, persistent or severe side effects should be referred to a medical professional.
5. Will I get the flu after getting a flu shot?
No, the flu shot cannot give you the flu. All flu vaccines used in Australia contain ‘inactivated’ copies of the flu virus. Only live viruses can make people sick. Inactivated viruses allow your body to produce an immune response without getting sick.
6. What are the negatives of getting a flu vaccine?
There are very few if any. In fact, studies and data show there are a lot more benefits to getting the flu shot than not and flu shots can greatly reduce risk, severity and length of sickness with the flu.
The negatives some people find with getting flu vaccines is the risk of experiencing any side effects but the vast majority of people experience no or minor side effects.
7. Should I have a flu shot if I am pregnant?
Yes, the flu shot is strongly recommended for pregnant people and is safe. The flu vaccine will help protect both the mother and the unborn baby from developing serious cases of the flu.
Flu vaccines are also recommended for asthmatics, young children aged 6 months and over, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, pregnant women, the elderly and healthcare workers.
8. Are there long-term side effects from the flu vaccine?
No, there is no evidence-based research to suggest any long-term side effects of the flu vaccine.
9. Can a flu shot weaken my immune system?
No, the flu shot will not weaken your immune system. In fact, Harvard research suggests the annual influenza vaccine does not weaken your immune system and actually boosts it.
10. Can a flu shot cause autoimmune disease?
In very rare circumstances, people have experienced Guillain barré syndrome after receiving a vaccine.
11. Is it okay to have a flu shot and a covid-19 vaccination?
Yes. Previous advice when COVID-19 vaccines were first introduced was to get the influenza vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine about 7 days apart. The existing data shows it is safe to get both the flu and a COVID-19 vaccine simultaneously. There are also dual vaccines that will provide simultaneous protection from both the flu and covid in development in research laboratories.
12. Are there people who should not have a flu shot?
No, there is no medical condition that should prevent people from getting flu shots. If anything, flu shots are recommended for immunocompromised people, because if infected with the live flu virus, they will be at risk of more serious illness. It is safer for them to develop immunity through the inactivated virus in the annual flu vaccine.
The only people who are advised against getting any vaccines are people who have previously experienced a severe allergic reaction including anaphylactic reactions to vaccines.
13. Is it too late to have a flu shot in 2023?
It’s never too late to vaccinate. Flu shots are usually introduced to the Australian public around March/April so by peak flu season in the winter months (June-September), immunity against the flu is at its highest. You can get vaccinated for the flu at any time of the year.
14. Can I get flu vaccinations at my workplace?
Yes, you can. Don’t let the flu season catch you and your coworkers off guard this year. Take action to protect your workplace and promote a healthy environment by enquiring about workplace flu vaccinations. By doing so, you’ll not only reduce the risk of illness spreading throughout the office but also minimize absenteeism and maintain productivity. Reach out to Bodycare today to discuss a workplace flu vaccination program for your team. Together, we can keep our workplaces healthy and flu-free in 2023.