Influenza: Don’t get it, don’t give it

Influenza can be anywhere, and is a highly contagious virus with many different strains. Around one in four New Zealanders are infected with influenza or ‘flu’ each year.

Immunisation is the best protection against influenza. Your flu symptoms are less likely to be severe even if you still catch influenza after immunisation.

Protect yourself and your whānau from flu. Features a person with a disability/whaikaha in a assistive mobility chair in a park. You could still be infected with flu even if you don’t feel sick, and pass it on to others. Reduce the spread of flu if you are sick by:

  • staying away from others including crowded places or events;
  • regular washing your hands often for at least 20 seconds and drying them for 20 seconds or using hand sanitiser; and
  • covering your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing – into a tissue, clothing or the inside of your elbow. Remember to put tissues in a lined bin.

Having an influenza immunisation every year can keep older people healthy for longer. Older people and those with certain medical conditions are also more likely to be affected by the flu. This is because influenza can make an existing medical condition worse (including asthma and diabetes), or increase the risk of complications such as pneumonia or heart failure – even if you feel healthy.

Having the influenza immunisation during pregnancy helps protect the hapū māma and pēpē/ baby against influenza. You can receive the flu jab at the same time as your FREE whooping cough/ pertussis or COVID-19 booster vaccine.

Stay at home from work, school or preschool if you have the flu so that you don’t spread it to others. Even a mild case of influenza can disrupt your everyday activities with family, friends, community and work.

Influenza is more than just a ‘bad cold’. It is a serious illness that can put anyone in hospital or even kill them, including young and healthy people. Symptoms may vary with age, immune status and health of the individual and can include:

  • fever;
  • sore throat;
  • muscle aches;
  • headache;
  • cough;
  • fatigue; and
  • generally feeling miserable.

The fever and body aches can last for up to 5 days, and the cough and fatigue may last for two or more weeks.

Influenza vaccination is FREE for those who need it most

Getting immunised each year as early as possible before winter hits gives the best protection. This is because it can take up to two weeks for your body to start protecting you, and this protection can last until next flu season.

You need to get the flu vaccine each year as protection from the previous vaccination lessens over time, and the flu strains in the vaccine usually change each year. Over a million New Zealanders get the annual immunisation against influenza.

The influenza vaccine is safe, effective and cannot give you “the flu”. The influenza vaccination will not protect you against COVID-19 and does not increase the risk of being infected with COVID-19 or any other respiratory virus.

You can get your flu vaccine at the same time as your COVID-19 booster dose. There is no need to leave a gap between these jabs – as long as you are feeling well on the day of your flu vaccination.

Most tamariki aged 9 years and over need one vaccination each year to get good protection against flu. Tamariki receiving their flu vaccine for the first time will receive two vaccines given at least 4 weeks apart. The flu shot can be given with other vaccines that you child may need – such as MMR, chickenpox or Meningococcal B.

Book your flu and COVID-19 vaccines now at You can also call 0800 28 29 26 (8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday), or contact your GP, pharmacy or healthcare provider.

A FREE flu vaccine is now available to anyone in the following eligible groups:

  1. People aged 65 years and older;
  2. People aged 6 months and older with underlying health conditions including heart disease, cancer, diabetes and serious asthma;
  3. Pregnant people – at any stage or trimester in the pregnancy;
  4. Children aged 4 years or under who have been hospitalised for respiratory illness or have a history of significant respiratory illness;
  5. People with significant mental illness such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder; and
  6. People currently accessing mental health and addiction services.


“Even if you aren’t eligible for a free flu vaccination, it’s definitely worthwhile getting if it means that you will avoid having a miserable time with flu. It could also prevent sickness spreading to whānau and friends, and possibly having to take time off work,” says West Coast Medical Officer of Health Dr Cheryl Brunton. The cost for a flu vaccine is typically $25 to $45.

Common side effects to the influenza vaccination

Having side effects after your flu vaccine is a sign that your body’s immune system is working well.

You might experience:

  • Pain, redness or swelling at the site of the injection in children and adults;
  • Headache, muscle ache or fatigue in adults; and
  • Fever, irritability and loss of appetite in children.

Most side effects should only last for a few days.

Published on Monday, April 1st, 2024, under News
Page last updated: 22/04/2024

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