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Protect yourself and others

After more than a year of social distancing and isolation, it's more important than ever to take steps to protect yourself against vaccine preventable diseases this winter. Influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia can be serious and even fatal. Vaccinating against these virus’ won’t prevent COVID-19, but they will reduce the burden of illnesses and reduce hospitalisations. Getting vaccinated, practising good hand hygiene and staying home if you’re unwell are important steps to help keep yourself and your loved ones safe and well. Download our Vaccination Tracker and talk to your doctor about protecting yourself this winter.

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Influenza

What is influenza (flu)? 

While many of us refer to any cold or flu-like symptoms as ‘the flu’, influenza is a severe illness and for some, even fatal. The virus spreads from person-to-person by tiny drops produced during a cough or sneeze. The annual flu vaccine helps to stop the spread of the virus to keep people healthy and active, and to protect the more vulnerable members of our community who flu can be serious for. 

Flu symptoms include: 

  • Sore throat 
  • Fever and chills 
  • Headache, muscle aches and joint pain 
  • Dry, chesty cough 
  • Nasal congestion and runny nose 
  • Fatigue
  • Sneezing
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea. 
  • Who is at risk of the flu?

    The flu can affect people of all ages. Those at highest risk of being hospitalised with the flu include:
    - Infants
    - People aged over 65 years
    - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
    - Pregnant women
    - People with long-term medical conditions
    - People who have weakened immune systems
    - People who are obese
    - People who smoke
    - People who have not been vaccinated against the flu.

  • When should I get a flu vaccine?

    Optimal protection against the flu occurs within the first three to four months following vaccination so it should be timed to achieve the highest level of protection during peak flu season, which is usually between June to September in most parts of Australia.

    Revaccination later in the same season for individuals who have already received the flu vaccine is not routinely recommended, but may benefit some individuals due to personal circumstances, such as travel or pregnancy. Discuss your individual circumstances with your doctor.

  • Why do I need the flu vaccine every year?

    Flu viruses are constantly changing, so the vaccine is reviewed each year and updated as needed based on which flu viruses are making people sick, how those viruses are spreading, and how well the previous season's vaccine protects against those viruses variations.

  • What type of flu vaccine will I get?

    There are seven types of flu vaccines registered and available for use in Australia in 2021. It is important to get the right vaccine for your age. Your immunisation provider can tell you which vaccine they will use for you, according to the Australian Immunisation Handbook and the National Immunisation Program.

  • Will I get the flu from the vaccine?

    All flu vaccines used in Australia are ‘inactivated’, which means they don’t contain the live flu virus, so you can't catch the flu from the vaccine. Some people experience flu-like symptoms such as slight fever or pain at the injection site. They are usually mild and short-lived and are a sign the vaccine is triggering an immune response, which is what it’s designed to do. These reactions do not require special treatment or reporting. If you have concerns about a reaction that appears to be getting worse or does not fit the common reactions for that vaccine, seek medical attention.

  • Can I get the flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine on the same day?

    The recommended minimum gap between the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine is 14 days. Arrange to get your annual flu vaccine as soon as it’s available so you can receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to you. If you’re currently eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine and haven’t received your flu vaccine yet, talk to your doctor about the timing and scheduling of receiving both this year.

  • Who is eligible for a free flu vaccine?

    Under the National Immunisation Program, the following groups are eligible for a free flu vaccine due to their increased risk of complications from the virus:

    - People aged 6 months to less than 5 years
    - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 6 months and over
    - Pregnant women
    - People aged 65 years and over
    - People aged 6 months and over with medical conditions which increase the risk of influenza disease complications, including people living with chronic lung disease.

    Vaccines are the best defence to reduce the spread of flu. If you are not eligible for a free vaccine, you can still receive it by paying for it. The cost depends on the type of vaccine, the formula and where you buy it from. Your immunisation provider, such as your doctor or pharmacist, can give you more information.

Pneumococcal pneumonia 

What is pneumococcal pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a common and potentially fatal lung infection that can be caused by viruses, bacteria or fungi. One of the most severe forms of pneumonia is pneumococcal pneumonia, which is caused by the bacterium, Streptococcus pneumoniae. This bacterium is responsible for approximately 1.6 million deaths each year world-wide. Healthy people may carry it in their nose and throat. While most of the time this does not cause any illness, vulnerable groups such as those over the age of 70, infants, people with a chronic illness etc. may develop pneumococcal disease.  

Symptoms include: 

  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Cough 
  • Fever 
  • Fatigue 
  • Chest pain. 
  • Who should get a pneumonia vaccine?

    Pneumonia can affect people of all ages, but those at a higher risk who should be vaccinated include:

    - Infants and children aged under 5
    - Infants aged 12 months and under living with a medical condition that puts them at higher risk
    - People aged over 70 years
    - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have medical conditions that put them at higher risk
    - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 50
    - People living with medical risk factors, including those living with chronic lung disease
    - People who smoke.

  • Do I need the pneumonia vaccine every year?

    Unlike the flu vaccine, the pneumonia vaccine isn’t required annually. A second dose is available to some Australians, a minimum of five years following their first dose. If you’re considered at-risk and haven’t been vaccinated against pneumococcal pneumonia or can’t remember when you were vaccinated, talk to your doctor.

  • Who is eligible for a free pneumonia vaccine?

    Under the National Immunisation Program, the following groups are eligible for a free vaccine due to their increased risk of complications from pneumococcal pneumonia:

    - Infants and children aged under 5
    - Children, adolescents and adults who have certain medical conditions that put them at higher risk, including people living with chronic lung disease.
    - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people under the age of 50, who have medical conditions that put them at higher risk, including people living with chronic lung disease
    - All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years and over
    - People aged 70 years and over.

    Vaccines are the best defence to reduce the spread of pneumonia. If you are not eligible for a free vaccine, you can still receive it by paying for it. The cost depends on the type of vaccine, the formula and where you buy it from. Your immunisation provider, such as your doctor or pharmacist, can give you more information.

COVID-19

The rollout of COVD-19 vaccines has started in Australia and will be administered in a series of phases. The vaccines will become available at hospitals, health clinics, GPs clinics and approved pharmacies across the country. The recommended minimum gap between an influenza vaccine and a COVID-19 vaccine is 14 days so if you’re waiting to become eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, it’s a great time to speak to your GP about preparing yourself for flu season.  

The COVID-19 vaccine is voluntary, available to everyone in Australia and free. If you have more questions about the COVID-19 vaccine and when you will be eligible, visit our COVID-19 information hub.

Reduce the spread

There are steps we can all take to reduce the spread of nasty bugs and viruses such as the flu, COVID-19 and even the common cold. Many of these practices have become second nature during the COVID-19 pandemic and continuing them as part of our day-to-day lives will help keep the community safe. 

Keep your distance: If you’re experiencing any cold or flu like symptoms it’s important to get a COVID-19 test and isolate until you receive a negative result. Even if you do test negative, if we all keep our distance when we’re feeling unwell, it can reduce the chance of spreading any virus or infection to our familyfriendscolleagues and the broader community. 

Hand hygiene: Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser gel. If you’re out and about, avoid touching things in public spaces as much as possible and always wash your hands or use sanitiser after. 

Face masksWearing a mask if you’re experiencing any cold or flu-like symptoms can help to reduce the spread of nasty bugs and viruses – particularly in situations where you can’t social distance such as public transport and busy shopping centres. 

Cleaning advice: Wipe down frequently touched surfaces regularly and any items brought into your home. Using detergent and water, followed by a disinfectant is the most effective way to reduce the spread of viruses. Read more cleaning tips, here. 

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