What the flu vaccine protects you from

The flu (influenza) virus changes often. This means the vaccine has to be tweaked each year to match the new strains of the disease. Getting a flu vaccine every year means you have the best protection.

Flu symptoms come on suddenly and can include fever, chills, muscle aches, runny nose, cough, shortness of breath, and stomach upsets. It can keep you in bed for a week or more.

Flu is usually spread by coughing and sneezing and is most common during winter.

The flu can make you very sick, even if you are usually fit and healthy. Your tamariki can get very unwell with it too. You could also spread it to vulnerable people, including older people or pregnant people.

Flu (influenza) (external link)

Risk of flu when you are pregnant

If you catch the flu when you are pregnant, there is a high risk you could develop serious complications that can affect you and your pēpi (baby). Complications include:

  • premature birth
  • low birthweight
  • miscarriage or stillbirth.

You can get a free flu vaccine at any stage of your pregnancy. If you are pregnant across 2 flu seasons, it is recommended that you get a vaccination in both seasons.

Flu vaccine: Your questions answered

When the flu vaccine is given

The flu vaccine is available from 1 April each year, before winter starts. We recommend everyone over 6 months old gets immunised against flu every year.

If you have a tamaiti (child) under 9 years old, talk to your vaccinator about whether they may need 1 or 2 immunisations (4 weeks apart) depending on if they have had a flu vaccine before.

The 2024 flu vaccine is free for some people

The flu vaccine is free for people at higher risk of getting very sick, including:

  • people aged 65 years and over
  • people aged 6 months and over who have a long term medical condition like diabetes, asthma, or a heart condition
  • pregnant people
  • tamariki (children) aged 4 years and under who have been hospitalised for respiratory illness, or have a history of significant respiratory illness
  • people with mental health conditions, including schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, or schizoaffective disorder
  • people who are currently accessing secondary or tertiary mental health and addiction services.

The funded flu vaccine for tamariki and adults (6 months of age and over) available in Aotearoa New Zealand is called Influvac Tetra. 

Detailed free flu vaccine criteria — Pharmac (external link)

If you need to pay for the flu vaccine

If you do not meet the free flu vaccine criteria, and you do not have a free flu vaccine voucher from your employer, there will be a cost for the flu vaccine. Ask your doctor, nurse, healthcare provider, or pharmacy if you are unsure.

It costs between $25 and $45.

Book your vaccine

Flu vaccines are available from your doctor, nurse, or healthcare provider. Everyone over 3 years old can get a flu vaccine at many pharmacies.

Flu vaccines for an individual, or a group, can also be booked online through Book My Vaccine, or over the phone.

Find more information about booking a vaccine, or how to get specific support for your needs. 

Booking an immunisation appointment (internal link)

Side effects and reactions

Like most medicines, vaccines can sometimes cause reactions. These are usually mild, and not everyone will get them.

Mild reactions are normal and shows that your immune system is responding to the vaccine.

If you are going to have any reactions, they normally happen in the first few days after getting vaccinated. The vaccine itself is gone from your body within a few hours or days.

The most common reaction to an immunisation includes:

  • a slight fever
  • pain or swelling where the needle went in.

Other common side effects

Other common side effects of the flu vaccine include:

  • crying, being upset, and hard to settle (in babies and toddlers)
  • loss of appetite
  • aches and pains
  • headache.

Allergic reactions

Serious allergic reactions are extremely rare. Only about 1 in 1 million people will experience this.

Your vaccinator is well-trained and knows what to look for and can treat an allergic reaction quickly if it happens.

Serious allergic reactions normally happen within the first few minutes of vaccination, this is why you need to wait for up to 20 minutes after immunisation.