Flu Vaccination FAQs
Q: What is influenza (flu) and how is it transmitted?
A: Influenza, or ‘the flu’ as it is commonly called, is a highly contagious respiratory viral illness and is most common during the winter months. Influenza A and B are the major types of flu viruses that infect the body and can cause serious illness, and even death, in people of all ages. When someone with the flu sneezes or coughs, the virus is expelled into the air and may be inhaled by anyone close by.
Q: What are the symptoms of the flu?
A: The typical symptoms a person with the flu may experience include a sudden onset of fever, cough, sore throat, fatigue, muscle aches, headaches, runny nose and watery eyes. Children may experience vomiting and diarrhoea in addition to these symptoms, however, these symptoms are uncommon in adults.
Although the fever and body aches usually last for 3– 5 days, a cough and fatigue may persist for two weeks or more and, in cases of serious infections, complications such as pneumonia and inflammation of the heart and/or lungs can occur resulting in a much longer illness.
Q: Who gets the flu?
A: Everyone is susceptible to the flu. The disease can lead to severe complications in people over the age of 65 or with co-morbidities such as chronic disorders of the pulmonary or circulatory systems, congenital heart disease, cystic fibrosis, severe asthma, diabetes mellitus, chronic metabolic disorders, renal dysfunction and immune deficiency.
Q: How long is a person with the flu contagious?
A: The period between infection and onset of symptoms (incubation period) for the flu is 1- 4 days. A person with the flu may be contagious 1 day before symptoms appear and for 3- 7 days after the onset of symptoms. Children may be contagious for longer than 7 days.
Q: Is flu considered serious?
A: For healthy children and adults, the flu is typically a moderately severe illness, however, most people are back on their feet within a week. For people who are not healthy or well to begin with, the flu can be very severe and even fatal. Symptoms have a greater impact on these people and, in addition, complications can occur. Most of these complications are bacterial infections due to the body being severely weakened by the flu such that its defences against bacteria are low. Bacterial pneumonia is the most common complication of the flu while the sinuses and inner ears may also become inflamed and painful.
Q: How can the flu and its complications be prevented?
A: The flu and the common complications of this infection can be prevented with a high degree of success when a person receives the current flu vaccine. A new vaccine is made each year so that the vaccine contains the 3 most common circulating influenza strains that are expected to cause illness that year. For maximum effect, doctors highly recommend you are vaccinated well before the winter season starts, March and April.
Q: Is the flu vaccine safe?
A: The vaccine does not cause the flu and it does not contain the “live virus”. Generally, people have no reaction to the vaccine although some people may experience mild side effects such as tenderness and redness at the injection site. This usually clears within a day or two and generally is only reported in 20% of people who receive the vaccine.
Some people experience flu-like symptoms as their immune system creates antibodies to the vaccine (the mode of immune protection). The risk of this is about 1 in 5.
Persons with allergies to eggs or chicken products should not receive the flu vaccine as it is prepared from flu viruses grown in eggs.
Q: How effective is the flu vaccine?
A: In years where there is a good match between the vaccine virus and the virus strain causing illness, the flu vaccine is generally considered to be 70%- 90% effective in preventing the illness in healthy adults.
It is important to know that it takes about 2 weeks after vaccination for a person to develop protection against the flu. The vaccine does not protect against respiratory illness caused by other viruses.
Q: Can you get the flu from a vaccination?
A: No, you cannot get the flu from the vaccine. The viruses in the vaccine are inactivated and incapable of causing the flu. Instead, the person is protected from the flu by antibodies that are formed by their own immune system’s response to the vaccine. While ‘flu-like’ symptoms usually occur within 6-12 hours of receiving the vaccine and last 1-2 days. This is a reaction common to many vaccines. 6-12 hours of receiving the vaccine and last 1-2 days. This is a reaction common to many vaccines.
Q: Why do I need to get vaccinated against the flu every year?
A: The amount of antibodies in the body is greatest 1 or 2 months after the vaccination and then gradually declines. For that reason and because the flu virus usually changes each year, a high-risk person should be vaccinated each autumn with the new vaccine. The decline in protection may be influenced by several factors, including a person’s age, the antigen used in the vaccine and the person’s health status. This decline in protection has the potential to leave some people more vulnerable to infection, illness and possibly serious complications from the same flu viruses a year after being vaccinated. So for optimal protections against the flu, annual vaccination is recommended.
Q: What are the recommended strains for the 2020 seasonal flu vaccine?
A: The Australian vaccine for 2020 contains:
- an A/Brisbane/02/2018 (H1N1) pdm09-like virus
- an A/South Australia/34/2019 (H3N2)-like virus
- a B/Washington/02/2019-like (B/Victoria lineage) virus
- a B/Phuket/3073/2013-like (B/Yamagata lineage) virus.
Q: Can you have a recurrence of the flu even after having the vaccine?
A: A person can have the flu more than once regardless of receiving the vaccine. Influenza A and influenza B are the two types that cause illness of varying severity. Within each influenza virus family there are many viral strains. Both A and B have strains that cause illness of varying severity.
But the influenza A family has more virulent strains than the B family.
If you have the flu, your body responds by developing antibodies. The following year a new strain may appear. Your antibodies are less effective or ineffective against this unfamiliar strain. If you are exposed to it, you may come down with the flu again.
Q: Is the flu vaccine safe for pregnant women?
A: As a general guide, any females that are pregnant, planning to be pregnant or breastfeeding, should discuss with their Doctor as to whether they obtain the flu vaccine during their first trimester. The Australian Immunisation Handbook, published by the National Health and Medical Research Council, recommends vaccination for pregnant women who will be in the their second and or third trimester during the flu ‘season’ (May to October) due to evidence from a number of studies that suggest an increased risk of developing flu-associated complications. Please advise our practitioners at the time of vaccinating if you are pregnant.
Q: Should I receive the flu vaccine if I have had a previous adverse reaction to a vaccine?
A: If you have experienced an uncommon/severe adverse reaction to any vaccine in the past, Aspen Corporate Health recommends you discuss your suitability to receive the flu vaccine with your General Practitioner. If you have required oxygen in the past following vaccination for any reason, including preexisting medical conditions, then it will be more appropriate for you to receive the vaccine in a medical facility where there is appropriate monitoring or nursing staff and medical equipment available.
Please find following a list of possible side affects you may experience from receiving the flu vaccines.
Like all medicines and vaccines, Fluvax and FluQuadri can cause side effects, although these generally are not very common. During clinical trials, the following side effects were reported with the use of Fluvax and/or FluQuadri:
Very Common (more than 1 in 10 persons):
- At the injection site: redness, hardness, swelling, itching and pain
- Feeling unwell, headache and muscular pain.
Common (more than 1 in 100 persons):
- At the injection site: bruising
- Fever (38C or higher) and shivering.
Aspen Corporate Health WILL report on ‘Uncommon’ side/adverse effects as listed below:
Uncommon (less than 1 in 100 persons):
- Fatigue, swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpit or groin, joint pain, itching and rash
- Flu like symptoms, fever, fatigue, muscle soreness etc
- Increased sweating
- Unusual bleeding, bruising or purple spots on the skin
- Swollen joints
- Severe allergic reactions which can lead in rare cases to:
- Anaphylactic Shock leading to medical emergency
- Shortness of breath, wheezing or difficulty breathing
- Swelling most apparent in the head and neck or any part of the body
- Pain located on the nerve route, convulsions associated with fever, neurological disorders that may result in stiff neck, confusion, numbness, pain and weakness of the limbs, loss of balance, loss of reflexes, paralysis of part or all the body
- Vessel inflammation which may result in very rare cases in temporary kidney problems
- Skin reactions that may spread throughout the body including itchiness of the skin
Any side/adverse effect not described above which is deemed serious by the attending General Practitioner.
We advise that you remain in the vicinity of the vaccination room for approximately 15 minutes before returning to work. Should you experience an ‘Uncommon’ adverse effect, we encourage you to report back to the Practitioner as soon as they present.
As per section 4 of the Terms and Conditions in the Disclaimer Form, Aspen Corporate Health has an obligation to report your name to your employer should you experience an ‘Uncommon’ adverse effect for monitoring purposes.