The truth about flu and the vaccine


There are some risks associated with flu vaccination though they are less common and far less severe than symptoms or complications from actually getting flu.

Risks include:

  • An allergic reaction, for example from people who are sensitive to hen's eggs (eggs are used in the manufacture of the vaccine). People who are allergic to hens' eggs are advised not to get vaccinated, or if their sensitivity is mild, to obtain medical advice first.
  • People may experience soreness and/or redness at the injection site, others feel tired, mildly unwell or even have low-grade fever. This is normal and will fade after a couple of days at the most.
  • People can still get influenza even though they have been vaccinated. A small percentage may get a milder form of one of the strains included in the vaccine - it's milder because they are partially immune because they have been vaccinated. Also, it's possible to contract a strain that wasn't in the vaccine - the vaccine is formulated to include the most common strains predicted to be in circulation during the southern hemisphere flu season.

Is your family flu strong?

There's a lot of misinformation about flu, things that people believe that are simply untrue.

The following is true:

  • Flu is quite different from the common cold. Flu is a serious and highly infectious disease that kills around 400 New Zealanders each year. A heavy cold is unpleasant, but flu will typically put you out of action - no work, play or sport for at least a week.
  • Getting vaccinated doesn't give you the flu. It can't because there is no live virus material in the vaccine.
  • The vaccine is thoroughly tested and protects against the strains of flu currently in circulation.
  • Antibiotics don't work against flu, vaccination is the best protection. Antivirals such as Tamiflu may help if you take them at the right time, but by the time you realise you have flu, it's often too late.
  • Flu infects the fit and healthy too. Though staying fit and eating a healthy diet certainly helps your body fight infection, it won't stop you from getting infected in the first place. Immunity is the surest way to do that and you can only become immune through getting vaccinated, or by getting flu.
  • Remember, even if your body copes relatively well with flu you will still be infectious to family, whanau and others you come into contact with and they may not be so lucky.