As you get older, you're at higher risk of catching flu and developing complications. Your best defence is to get a free flu jab – particularly if you are 65+, or 55 and over and Māori or Pacific.
Last updated: 21 April 2022
On this page:
- Why it’s important older people get the flu jab
- Getting the flu jab
- Having a COVID-19 vaccination at the same time as the flu jab
As Aotearoa emerges from its bubble, there’s a much bigger chance of catching the flu. And, with international borders opening, we’ll see new and re-occurring strains of flu spreading in our communities.
The flu can be serious and make people very unwell. It affects the whole body and can last up to a week or more.
In some cases, the flu can put people in hospital – particularly if you are 65+, or 55 and over Māori or Pacific. In severe cases the flu can be fatal – around 500 people die from the flu every year.
As you get older your immune system isn’t as good at protecting you, even if you feel fit and healthy. That’s why it’s important to boost your protection with a flu jab.
The flu jab is important every year, but very important this year because as everyone is aware, we've been locked down for the last two years.
So this year we will all be exposed in a way we haven't been exposed before.
So it's really important this year to get that flu vaccine to help prevent us getting very ill with the flu.
The flu vaccine is free if you're pregnant, people who are over the age of 65, Māori or Pasifika people over the age of 55 or people with long-term conditions.
If you've previously had a free flu vaccine you're probably still going to be eligible for one.
If you haven't had one before, but you have a long-term condition please contact your practice nurse to find out if you're eligible for a free vaccine.
To be eligible for a free flu vaccine as a child. If your child has been to hospital due to a lung problem, a respiratory problem then they can get a flu vaccine if they're under the age of five or if they have a long-term medical condition such as asthma, that may mean that they're eligible to have a free flu vaccine.
You're still allowed to get one, there's just a small cost.
I think that it's a way of protecting those people that might become more sick from the flu, so if you work with children, if you work with elderly or you just like to protect those around you or yourself, because as we've seen with COVID-19 even young fit healthy people can still sometimes get very sick from the flu.
There is common side effects that we have when getting the flu vaccine and actually they're pretty similar to those that we have when we have COVID-19.
When you have a vaccine it stimulates your body to respond to be able to fight off that infection.
So actually you get the same symptoms you would get if you were getting sick, but actually not getting sick it's your immune system being primed.
You might get a fever, you might get headache, you might get an achy body.
That is actually a normal immune response, that is your body telling you there's something wrong, I need to fight it off and we expect it but it's nothing like getting the real disease.
The flu vaccine is not new.
The way it's made, we have lots of data and information, we've been giving the flu vaccine for decades and we can give it from as young as six months old all the way up to over a hundred.
So every year there are a number of flu viruses in the community and so the flu vaccine only covers those that were either very common or severe from the previous year and so every year there will be other viruses that aren't in the flu vaccine that people can still catch and become unwell with and so it's a prediction game.
So sometimes there will be a strain that is new that isn't covered by the flu vaccine.
So yes, you can actually have your COVID-19 vaccine plus the flu vaccine at the same time.
Actually, you can if you haven't had some of your childhood immunisations, such as the measles you can also have that at the same time as having your COVID-19 vaccine.
So I’d strongly recommend if you haven't already had all your COVID-19 vaccines or your booster to please have this at the same time as getting your flu vaccine.
Although having the flu jab doesn’t guarantee you won’t catch the flu, it will give you more protection and reduce the symptoms if you do catch it.
In 2022, all people aged 65 and over are eligible for the free flu jab.
For Māori and Pacific people, the free flu vaccination is available from 55 years.
For the best protection, get the flu jab before the start of winter.
You can get your free flu jab from your GP or healthcare provider. Many pharmacies also offer the free flu vaccine.
The flu jab is also free for those with underlying health conditions and if you're pregnant.
You can have a COVID-19 vaccine or booster at the same time as your free flu vaccine. There’s no need to leave a gap between these vaccines.
Being up-to-date with all your vaccinations gives your the best possible protection. You will need to check the vaccination site is able to administer both before you arrive.
If you’ve recently had COVID-19 you can have a flu jab as soon as you’ve recovered.