I explain vaccinations to my patients like this: a vaccine provides your body with a glimpse of a particular virus or bacteria, so it can produce specific antibodies to combat it. If you contract influenza after being vaccinated, your body can better deal with the infection because it’s had a taste of that same virus before – which means you have a lower risk of falling sick.
Most vaccines in Australia protect against four different strains of influenza. These strains change every year depending on what is likely to circulate in the community. While the contents can vary slightly between different brands of flu vaccine, all of them offer the same degree of protection.
A flu jab contains inactivated (dead) influenza virus strains, which means you can’t get sick from the vaccination itself. Getting a flu shot can cause some minor side effects like a sore arm or slight muscle aches, but its benefits far outweigh the risks. This goes double if you spend lots of time with vulnerable individuals; for example, children under five, the elderly, or people with compromised immune systems.