Flu (influenza) vaccine

The flu vaccine is available from 1 April each year. It’s recommended everyone over 6 months old gets a flu vaccination every year. It’s free for people who are pregnant, over 65s, and for lots of other people.

Book a flu vaccine

What the flu vaccine protects you from

The flu (influenza) is not the same as a common cold. 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:

  • pregnant people
  • babies (especially those under 6 months who are too young to have a flu vaccine)
  • elderly people
  • those with health conditions.

The flu 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.

More about flu – IMAC

Who can get a free vaccine?

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.

[NOT INCLUDED IN VIDEO] In 2023, the flu vaccine is also free for all children aged 6 months to 12 years old.

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.

What if I'm not eligible for a free 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.

Why do we sometimes experience side effects?

There is common side effects that we have when getting the flu vaccine.

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.

Does the flu vaccine have a proven record?

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 6 months old all the way up to over 100.

Can I still catch the flu if I've had the vaccine?

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.

Can I have the flu vaccine at the same time as a COVID-19 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.

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

The 2024 flu vaccine is free for some people

The 2024 flu vaccine is free for:

  • people aged 65 years and over
  • people who have a long-term medical condition like diabetes, asthma, or a heart condition (ages 6 months and older)
  • pregnant people
  • 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 children and adults (6 months of age and over) available in Aotearoa New Zealand is called Influvac Tetra.

Detailed free flu vaccine criteria — Pharmac

If you need to pay for the flu vaccine

If you do not meet the above 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’re unsure.

It costs between $25 and $45.

Book a flu 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.

Book a flu vaccine online

Pharmacies offering flu vaccines – Health Point

Chat to the disability team

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’re 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.

Serious side effects are rare. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your doctor or nurse, or call Healthline for free on 0800 611 116.

How to treat common side effects

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.

Page last updated: 26 Feb 2024