So much is said and written about flu and the flu vaccine it is often difficult to understand what is actually correct. Travelvax asked Dr Alan Hampson, chairman of Australia’s Influenza Specialist Group1, to help us separate the fact from the fiction.

Flu Fiction 1

The flu vaccine can give you the flu.

Flu Fact

The fact is that you CANNOT get the flu virus from the vaccine. The vaccine contains small pieces of inactivated (‘killed’) versions of the strains predicted to circulate in the coming winter. They generate protective antibodies that fight any ‘live’ flu viruses we encounter.

Flu Fiction 2

Influenza is not a serious illness. Healthy people don’t need to get vaccinated.

Flu Fact

Each year approximately, 2500 Australians die as a result of flu infection, 18,000 are admitted to hospital and 300,000 will be sick enough to consult their GP1.

Much of this impact isn’t immediately obvious because flu infection can bring on heart attacks, strokes and other serious outcomes. Regardless of your age or fitness level, flu can be debilitating. It’s especially dangerous for infants, the elderly, or anyone with a chronic medical condition, such as diabetes, kidney dysfunction, or an immune deficiency.

Flu Fiction 3

The vaccine is not effective.

Flu Fact

In most years, the flu vaccine is 50%-70% effective in healthy individuals under 65, according to recent meta-analyses of randomised controlled trials1 and local observational studies2. In infants and older adults, vaccination greatly reduces cases of pneumonia, hospitalisations due to respiratory illness, and deaths. A high level of vaccination helps to protect the community’s most vulnerable.

Flu Fiction 4

You don’t need to get vaccinated every year.

Flu Fact

The flu vaccine is produced each year to protect against the strains most likely to circulate that year. Immunity is strong for several months, but then begins to fade. Regardless of any changes in the vaccine, 'topping up' your immunity each year gives you the best chance of avoiding the flu.

Flu Fiction 5

Over the years people build up immunity to flu.

Flu Fact

Flu viruses are constantly mutating and no-one has immunity to new strains. We gradually acquire some slight resistance over the years through repeated flu infections. But, while we might get fewer infections as we get older, each new one carries progressively greater risk.

Flu Fiction 6

Side effects are common.

Flu Fact

After flu vaccination, 1-10% of people will experience fever, malaise and muscle soreness mimicking flu, while 10% will get some pain, redness or swelling at the injection site4. Serious reactions are rare. But, anyone with a severe allergy to eggs, or who has had a reaction to flu or any other vaccine in the past, should discuss vaccination with their doctor.

Flu Fiction 7

Flu vaccination is a waste of time and money.

Flu Fact

Even healthy, young people can take two weeks or more to fully recover from influenza. Studies have indicated that flu is responsible for 10-20% of days off work and an infected employee is off work for 4.8 days. Flu can be costly – both for an employee and their employer.

Vaccination is the best way to help protect your workers – and their families – against the discomfort, inconvenience and financial pain of flu.

Need to book your workplace flu vaccination program? You can now book your workplace flu vaccination program online with Sonic HealthPlus. We also have an instant quote function available on our booking platform if you would like a quote before you book your program.

  1. Influenza Specialists Group
  2. Tricco et al. Comparing influenza vaccine efficacy against mismatched and matched strains: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Medicine 2013, 11:153
  3. Kelly et al. Moderate influenza vaccine effectiveness with variable effectiveness by match between circulating and vaccine strains in Australian adults aged 20–64 years, 2007–2011. IRV
  4. Australian Immunisation Handbook (pages 257-8). Available online (Chapter 4.7.11 - Adverse events)
Dr Eddy Bajrovic
Travel Doctor and General Practitioner

Dr Eddy Bajrovic is a Sonic HealthPlus Doctor and Medical Director of Travelvax Australia. Working primarily in the disciplines of general practice, occupational and travel medicine medicine, he has been a member of the International Society of Travel Medicine (ISTM) since 1998 and gained his Certificate in Travel Health in 2009.

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