Influenza (the flu)

Influenza (flu) vaccines are now available. Flu vaccination helps protect against the main flu viruses each year, although there's still a chance you might get the flu.

Getting immunised now helps to stop the spread of flu around your community and protects those more likely to experience severe illness from the flu.

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

  • if you are aged 65+
  • if you have a long-term medical condition like diabetes, asthma, or a heart condition (ages 6 months+)
  • if you are pregnant
  • children under 4 who have been hospitalised for, or have a history of, significant respiratory illness
  • if you live with mental health conditions, including schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, or schizoaffective disorder
  • if you are currently accessing secondary or tertiary mental health and addiction services (seeing a specialist or staying in hospital or other care facilities).

To give you the best protection this winter, make sure you and your whānau are up to date with all your vaccinations. You can also book your COVID-19 vaccine, and receive it, at the same time as your flu vaccine.

Book a vaccine for yourself, a family member, or a group on:

  • or
  • call 0800 28 29 26 – 8:30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, or
  • contact your healthcare provider, pharmacy or GP.

Where do I go for a flu vaccination?

You can get your flu vaccination at your GP, pharmacies, your local Māori Health provider or one of the community vaccination clinics.

General Practices/Māori Health providers providing flu vaccines:

Tui Ora Whānau Health and Wellbeing Services
0800 884 672 or 06 759 4064
Ngāti Ruanui Medical Centre
06 274 8047 or 0508 FORNIA / 0508 367 642
Ngāruahine Iwi Health Services
Iwi Help Line 0800 782 684 / Hawera Clinic 06 278 1310 / Patea Clinic 06 273 8456
If you don’t have a GP, look for one here which is accepting new patients


Community vaccination clinics

New Plymouth Vaccination Centre
Hāwera Vaccination Centre
Winter Wellness Clinics

Click here for more informaiton about these clinics.


Community pharmacists providing flu vaccines:

New Plymouth

Countdown Pharmacy Spotswood 6 Manadon Street.
Countdown Pharmacy The Valley The Valley Mega Centre 1 Vickers Road.
Devon West Pharmacy 283 Devon St West.
Robertsons The Valley Pharmacy The Valley Mega Centre 1 Vickers Road.
Westown Pharmacy 55 Tukapa Street.
Vivian Pharmacy 95 Vivian Street.


Stratford Pharmacy 235 Broadway.
Mackays Unichem Pharmacy 287 Broadway.


Eltham Pharmacy 130 High Street.


Robertsons Pharmacy Hāwera 94 High Street.

Pharmacy map

Please note these pharmacies were correct as of 13 April, 2021. Please phone ahead to confirm.

Influenza myths

There are many myths about the influenza vaccination. We have outlined the most common ones below.

The flu vaccine will give me the flu

You cannot get the flu from the vaccine as it does not contain any live viruses.

However, some people will experience mild side effects such as muscle aches or headaches for a short time after immunisation. This is a normal reaction.

I'm safe because I'm fit and never get sick

Anyone can catch the flu and pass it on to whanau or friends.

The flu is just a bad cold

The flu and common cold are caused by different viruses.

The flu can leave you bed-bound for weeks, require hospitalisation and be life-threatening.

Influenza facts

Influenza is different from the common cold and includes the following symptoms:

  • A fever greater or equal to 38°C
  • At least one respiratory symptom such as a cough, sore throat or nasal symptoms such as a runny nose
  • At least one systemic symptom such as a headache, myalgia (aches/pains), sweats/chills (feeling feverish) or lethargy (fatigue).

You can spread the flu to people, including your family/whanau and friends, who are at most risk of complications.

Influenza, commonly called the 'flu', can be a serious illness that is sometimes fatal and can infect up to 1 in 5 of us every year. While general health affects the severity of an infection, the influenza virus is contagious and anyone can become infected.

Up to 400 deaths each year in New Zealand are related to influenza infection.

The strains of influenza virus that reach New Zealand each year are usually different from the season before. The virulence of strains can vary from year to year or a new strain can emerge to which people are not immune.

Annual immunisation is recommended for two reasons:

  • protection lessens over time
  • each year influenza can be caused by different influenza strains, that may not be represented in the previous year’s vaccine

Immunity develops after you have been exposed to a particular strain of the virus through infection or immunisation. Influenza immunisation prepares and boosts your immune system to help you fight the influenza viruses expected to be circulating each year.

Seasonal influenza vaccinations are recognised as being the single most effective way of reducing the impact of seasonal influenza – especially for those most at risk of complications. This can be particularly true for the elderly.

Stop the flu before it gets you. Get immunised. Don’t spread the flu to you family and friends. Immunisation may be FREE for you. Ask your doctor or nurse today.

The difference between influenza (the flu) and a cold

Influenza symptoms Cold symptoms
Sudden onset of illness.
Moderate to severe illness lasting 7-10 days
Mild illness
Fever (usually high)
Headache (may be severe)
Mild fever
Mild headache
Dry cough, may become moist Sometimes a cough
Muscle aches
Muscle pain uncommon
A runny nose
Bed-rest necessary  
Can suffer severe complications (pneumonia)  


What is influenza?

Influenza is caused by three types of influenza virus – A, B and C that infect the respiratory system.  Influenza is contagious and is spread by coughing, sneezing and direct contact with an infected person or by touching a contaminated surface.

Influenza virus can be a serious illness that is sometimes fatal. Infection with the influenza virus may lead to a stay in hospital for any age group but particularly if you are very young, elderly, or have an ongoing medical condition. Influenza can make an existing medical condition such as asthma or diabetes, a lot worse.

Influenza continues to be a major threat to public health world wide because of its ability to spread rapidly through populations as epidemics.

How can I tell the difference between a cold and influenza?

Influenza can be a much more serious illness than a common cold.Influenza can leave you ill for up to 10 days. Most people suffer from a high fever, tiredness and may require bed rest. Some may also suffer shivering attacks, muscular pains, headaches, a dry cough, vomiting and diarrhea.
Complications, like pneumonia can follow. Immunisation against influenza is the best protection.

A cold has much less severe symptoms and generally lasts 2-4 days. High fever is less common and shivering attacks and severe headaches are rare. Muscular pains and vomiting are infrequent and the cough is less severe.There is currently no vaccine available for colds.

Influenza virus is different from a cold virus. A cold virus infects only the nose, throat and upper chest and only lasts for a few days.

Can the influenza vaccine give you influenza (the flu)?

No. You cannot get influenza from the vaccine. The vaccine is made from inactivated virus that is broken apart so that it cannot cause an infection. Many people confuse colds with influenza. Many other viruses are also present throughout the year, so people may catch a different respiratory infection with ‘flu-like’ symptoms and unfairly blame the influenza vaccine or influenza virus. Sometimes people can catch influenza before the vaccine has had time to generate protection (about two weeks).

Why do healthy people need influenza immunisation?

Being fit and healthy will not protect you from influenza. Influenza spreads easily and by immunising against influenza you can protect yourself and lessen the chance of bringing it home to a baby, older relative or someone with a medical condition who could develop serious complications.

When should people get vaccinated?

Get immunised as soon as possible after the vaccine becomes available (vaccine is usually available from March). It takes up to two weeks to develop immunity. Ideally, you should be vaccinated before the main influenza activity in May to September. High risk individuals can be immunised any time during the influenza season, but the vaccine is only free until 31 December.

Where can I get the vaccination?

Eligible people can get a free vaccination from their General Practice, and it is usually the practice nurse who administers the vaccine. The vaccine is injected into the upper arm. For children 6 months to 15 months, it is injected into the upper thigh.

From 2017 some community pharmacies provide free influenza vaccinations to:
     • individuals aged 65 years and older
     • pregnant women (any trimester)

Those not eligible for free vaccination: influenza vaccination is available from your local General Practice, Accident and Medical Centre or workplace Occupational Health Service. Please contact your provider regarding vaccination charges.

Can the vaccination be given to children?

Yes. The vaccination is approved for children 6 months and over and is especially recommended if they have ongoing medical condition such as being on a preventive medication for asthma. Check with your doctor for details.

Can influenza vaccine be given to pregnant women?

The seasonal influenza vaccine is strongly recommended for women who will be pregnant during the influenza season. Where possible, vaccines are usually given only in the second and third trimesters because vaccination with the influenza vaccine has been shown to be highly beneficial for pregnant women and their unborn babies. New Zealand is not alone in this recommendation, influenza vaccination for all pregnant women is currently recommended by health authorities in the USA, Australia and many European countries. Immunisation is free for pregnant women wishing to have the influenza vaccine.

Experience from previous seasonal influenza outbreaks showed that pregnant women are at greater risk from complications associated with influenza.

There are a range of changes that occur during pregnancy which may put pregnant women at higher risk of complications frominfluenza. These include changes to the lung function including decreased lung capacity; increased cardiac output and oxygen consumption, and changes to the immune response.

Because of the above changes, pregnant women with existing medical conditions are at even greater risk of severe influenza-related illness. When pregnancy is superimposed on high-risk conditions such as asthma or diabetes mellitus, influenza infection associated illness is 3-4 times greater than for non-pregnant women.

Maternal influenza infection has been associated with an increased risk of maternal hospitalisation and other illnesses. A small number of these women and babies die.

Vaccination of pregnant women against influenza has been shown to decrease the incidence of influenza in their newborn babies. Influenza in young infants often prompts hospitalisation and can predispose infants to bacterial pneumonia or otitis media (Middle ear infections).

Can infuenza vaccine be given to a woman who is breastfeeding?

Yes. The vaccine may be safely given to woman who is breastfeeding.

How do they know which influenza virus will affect New Zealand?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) takes influenza very seriously. Each year the WHO Information Surveillance Network studies the different strains of influenza and monitors their movements around the globe. They then decide which strains of the virus are likely to emerge in different parts of the world and develop vaccinations for them.

Which strains of the influenza virus are covered by this year’s vaccine (2021)?

The influenza virus has many types. Each year the World Health Organisation (WHO) makes recommendations for the strains that are in the influenza vaccine and the strains that should be circulating around New Zealand.

The 2021 influenza vaccine includes four strains of inactivated influenza virus:
• A/Victoria/2570/2019 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus
• A/Hong Kong/2671/2019 (H3N2)-like virus
• B/Washington/02/2019-like virus
• B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus

How safe is the vaccine?

The vaccine cannot give you influenza as it only contains fragments of the virus. The vaccine stimulates the immune system to make antibodies that protect against circulating viruses. Most people have no reaction to the vaccine. Occasionally the site where the vaccination was given is red or sore for a day or two. Some people may feel unwell for a day or two. These are normal responses to the immunisation. Severe reactions such as anaphylaxis are rare and occur in one to two cases per million vaccines given.

How effective is the vaccine for healthy adults?

Influenza vaccination is about 80% effective in preventing infection with influenza A and B viruses in healthy adults under 65 years of age, when there is a good match between vaccine and circulating influenza strains.

How long after vaccination does it take to start providing protection?

It takes up to two weeks for the vaccine to start providing protection.

Does the vaccination contain thiomersal or mercury?

No. It does not contain thiomersal (or any other mercury product).

Where can I go for more information?

  • Contact your general practice
  • Call Healthline free on 0800 611 116

Last reviewed: Monday, April 15, 2024

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