Should I get the flu vaccine? 20 April 2018 Ever thought ‘I don’t need to get the flu vaccine, I’m healthy’? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple and good health isn’t enough to protect you from the flu – though it certainly helps! Here’s what you need to know before heading into the cooler months. First of all, what is the flu? Influenza (or the flu) is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. The flu is around all year but is usually most active in winter. Influenza viruses are mainly spread by droplets made when a person coughs or sneezes. Viruses can also be spread by touching surfaces where these droplets have landed. This is why we cover our faces when we need to cough or sneeze. Why is it important for people living with diabetes? People living with type 1 or type 2 diabetes are three times more likely to get the flu and three times more likely to die from the flu or its complications. The flu, like other illnesses, also effects your blood glucose levels and diabetes management. For more information on sick days and type 1 diabetes. For more information on sick days and type 2 diabetes. How does vaccination work? Vaccination prevents people from becoming infected with diseases. A vaccine inserts a small amount of inactivated disease enters your body and triggers your body’s defence system to create antibodies. The antibodies remember what the disease(s) look like and can kill this type of germ if you are exposed to it in the future. The flu vaccine reduces the risk of infection by 50-60% (range 38-96% in recent Australian studies), though this varies yearly. Because the fly vaccine doesn’t contain the whole virus it can’t give you the flu, and you can’t pass the flu on to others. The more people who are vaccinated, the less disease there is to circulate in the community. This not only keeps more people healthy, vaccination also helps protect those who are unable to have the vaccine (such as babies under the age of 6 months). Everyone over the age of 6 months is recommended to get the flu vaccine annually, particularly anyone who is at higher risk of disease (such as people living with diabetes). This is because the virus strains used in flu vaccines can change from year to year, depending on which viruses the World Health Organisation predict to circulate that season. Therefore, last year’s vaccine won’t protect you for this year’s flu virus. Is the flu vaccine free? The flu is vaccine is available for free to: All people aged 65 years and overAll Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 6 months to 5 yearsAll Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and overPregnant womenPeople aged 6 months and over with medical conditions predisposing to sever influenza, including type 1 and type 2 diabetes Pregnant women should be vaccinated at any time of the year and at any stage of pregnancy. Pregnant women who are vaccinated also provide protection to their newborn babies until they are six months old.