Mythbusting: Can you get the flu from the flu shot?

TerryWhite Chemmart
Thanks to our brand partner, TerryWhite Chemmart

2017 was the year of fidget spinners, pompoms and activated charcoal everything. It was also the year we experienced one of the worst flu outbreaks since 2009 with approximately 250,000 confirmed cases in Australia.

If you’ve ever come down with the flu, you’ll know it’s not pleasant. I remember falling victim to it when I had a newborn and a toddler. The horrors of trying to breastfeed and calm tantrums while battling a fever, cough and extreme fatigue is top 10 in my parenting ‘Hall of Hell’. Ever since then, I always get a flu shot.

Unfortunately there is a bit of misinformation about the flu vaccine, the main myth being that the vaccine gives you the flu. Spoiler alert – it doesn’t. While the vaccine contains a tiny amount of deactivated, unharmful virus, it does not contain any of the live virus that causes influenza.

TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacist Nicky Muscillo thinks the rumour may have started because some people experience minor flu-like symptoms after receiving the vaccine.

“Sometimes after getting the flu vaccination, you can get a fever, headache and aches and pains,” says Muscillo. “These symptoms are due to the vaccines’ interaction with your immune system, but tend to be mild and only last for one or two days.”

The flu vaccine works by creating a little army of flu-fighting warriors in your system. For two weeks after you receive the flu shot, antibodies develop in your body which provide protection against viruses predicted to be most common during the upcoming flu season. This means that the vaccine is our best defence against the flu which can be easily caught during day-to-day activities.


“When someone with the flu coughs, sneezes or talks, the virus travels through the air in droplets. You can inhale the droplets directly or you can pick up the germs from an object like a phone or keyboard and then transfer them to your eyes, nose or mouth,” Muscillo explains.

There's always that one person in the office who just won't take the day off... Image: Getty.

I don’t know about you but I’m not overly keen to spend winter in an underground bunker avoiding contact with people. Given that the flu is highly contagious, our best option is to head to a pharmacy and get the flu shot before the peak flu season begins in June. The vaccine provides optimal protection for three to four months following the jab which will see you through to spring.


If you have older loved ones, you’ll also be pleased to know that the vaccine has been improved since last year’s outbreak. The flu shot is now tailored to the needs of different age groups because over 65s are more vulnerable to the virus’s complications.

For children and adults up to the age of 65, the vaccine contains four influenza strains. For anyone aged 65 and over, there are two additional three-strain vaccines that generate a stronger immune response.

In addition to getting the flu shot, Muscillo says you can reduce your chance of catching the flu through good hygiene, healthy living and chucking out the five-pack of hankies Nanna gave you for Chrissie.

Flu shots Australia
Get your winter defence kit together. Image: Getty.

"It's important to wash your hands with soap and water as often as possible and use a hand sanitiser to reduce the spread of the virus," Muscillo adds. "Also try to avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose and get in the habit of sanitising your workspace and throwing tissues out straight after use. Keeping hydrated, having a balanced diet and getting enough sleep will also reduce your chance of catching colds and flu."

If you think your immune system needs a boost, Muscillo also recommends chatting to your pharmacist about a good quality supplement that contains vitamin C, zinc or immune boosting herbs like echinacea or garlic.

It’s already April peeps which means it’s time to vamoose to a TerryWhite Chemmart to get your flu shot (for anyone 18 and over). They have more than three million appointments available throughout Australia and also accept walk-ins, making the process very convenient for time-poor humans, which is all of us. And don’t forget to spread the word - the flu shot does not give you the flu!

Did you get the flu last year? Tell us how you coped with it below.


This content was created with thanks to our brand partner TerryWhite Chemmart.