If you are 65 or older, you can get the flu vaccine for free each year. The flu vaccine is the safest way to protect yourself from flu.
Where to get the free flu vaccine
You can get the flu vaccine from your GP or pharmacist.
If you live in a long-term care facility, you will get the vaccine where you live.
Why should older people get the flu vaccine
Flu can be dangerous for people of all ages.
But people aged 65 and older who get flu are at higher risk of:
- severe illness
- going to hospital
- dying from flu
You need to have the flu vaccine every year. This is because the antibodies that protect you fade over time. Flu strains also change each year.
Type of flu vaccine for older people
You will be offered the adjuvanted Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccine (aQIV). It's also known by the brand name Fluad Tetra. This is a 1 dose vaccine.
Fluad Tetra (aQIV) is the recommended flu vaccine for people aged 65 and older. As we get older, our immune systems may not respond to vaccines the same way. 'Adjuvanted' means that the vaccine has an extra ingredient that makes it more effective for people aged 65 and older.
But, it is also safe to get the Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccine. All flu vaccines offer protection against flu and reduce the impact of flu if you were to catch it.
Who should not get the vaccine
You should not get the flu vaccine if you:
- have had a severe allergic reaction to a previous flu vaccine or any part of the vaccine (including polysorbate-80)
- are taking medicines called combination checkpoint inhibitors, for example, ipilimumab plus nivolumab
- have severe neutropoenia, which is low levels of a type of white blood cell
- are ill with a temperature greater than 38 degrees Celsius - wait until you are well before getting the vaccine
If you have an egg allergy, talk to your GP before getting the vaccine. Most people with an egg allergy can get the flu vaccine.
Fluad Tetra (aQIV) has an extra ingredient called MF59. This is made from squalene oil, which is a natural oil found in humans, plants and animals.
Adjuvants are added to vaccines to help develop a better and longer immune response. Adjuvants have been added to vaccines for many years to improve their effectiveness.
The flu vaccine is the safest way for your body to develop immunity to flu.
After the vaccine, you may have some mild side effects.
These may include:
- soreness, redness or swelling where you got the injection
- fever (high temperature - 38 degrees Celsius or above)
- mild sweating and shivering
- feeling tired
If you feel any of these side effects, it can help to rest and take paracetamol.
Serious side effects
Serious side effects such as a severe allergic reaction are rare.
In very rare cases Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) has been reported. GBS is a condition that affects the nerves in the body. It causes nerve inflammation and can cause pain, numbness, muscle weakness and difficulty walking. But you are far more likely to get Guillain-Barré syndrome from having the flu than from the flu vaccine.
You should also get the pneumococcal vaccine if you have not had it before. It protects you from pneumonia. You can get this at the same time as your flu vaccine.
You can also get the flu vaccine at the same time as your COVID-19 booster dose.