Healthy living

Influenza (flu) vaccine in pregnancy

  • Influenza (flu) is a highly contagious virus that affects the respiratory system.
  • Influenza can cause serious complications in pregnant women that can affect the unborn baby.
  • The influenza vaccine is free for pregnant women and recommended at any time during pregnancy.
  • Vaccination is the best protection against influenza and its complications.
  • Based on the most recent medical advice, you can receive the influenza vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine at the same time, if required.

Learn more about influenza and immunisation in pregnancy.

Why should pregnant women get the influenza vaccine?

Pregnant women who catch influenza are twice as likely to be admitted to hospital than other people who have influenza.

The Australian Government and Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommend that all pregnant women be vaccinated against influenza to:

  • protect themselves Getting influenza can cause serious problems when you are pregnant. Even if you are generally healthy, changes in immune, heart, and lung functions during pregnancy make you more likely to get seriously ill from influenza. Pregnant women who get influenza are at higher risk of hospitalisation, and even death, than non-pregnant women.
  • protect their baby – When you get your influenza vaccination, your body starts to make antibodies that help protect you against influenza. Antibodies can be passed on to your unborn baby and your immunity will help protect the baby for up to 6 months after they are born. This is important because babies younger than 6 months of age are too young to get an influenza vaccine. Babies are 25% less likely to be hospitalised from influenza-related illness if their mum's are immunised against influenza while pregnant. Severe illness in the pregnant mother can also be dangerous to her unborn baby because it increases the chance for serious problems such as premature labour and delivery. Risk of stillbirth is reduced by up to 51% in pregnant women who are immunised against influenza. If you breastfeed your infant, antibodies made in response your influenza vaccination may also be passed in breast milk and provide additional protection to your newborn.

The World Health Organisation recommends that pregnant women should receive the highest priority for influenza vaccination.

Is the vaccine safe for pregnant women and their babies?

Yes. The influenza vaccine has been given safely to millions of pregnant women worldwide over many years. Influenza vaccinations have not been shown to cause harm to pregnant women or their babies. Multiple studies confirm normal growth and health in babies with no excess in birth defects, cancers or developmental problems including learning, hearing, speech and vision.

In Australia, the safety of vaccination during pregnancy is monitored by the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) through AusVaxSafety. For more information about the safety of vaccines in pregnancy, please visit the AusVaxSafety website – pregnant people schedule point (external site) and influenza vaccine safety data – participants (external site).

Vaccination in pregnancy is the only way to protect infants 5 months and younger, although research is underway to assess the safety and efficacy of influenza vaccines in babies as young as 2 months.

Can I get influenza from the vaccine?

The influenza vaccine recommended for pregnant women contains proteins from 4 different types of influenza viruses representing the strains most likely to circulate each winter.

Inactivated influenza vaccines cannot give you influenza illness because they do not contain live virus.

When is the best time to have the vaccine during pregnancy?

The influenza vaccine can be given at any time during pregnancy. However, protecting women during their second and third trimesters is a priority because this is the time when serious complications from influenza are more likely to occur.

After vaccination it can take up to 2 weeks to develop protection.

If a pregnancy overlaps two influenza seasons and the woman has already received influenza vaccine in the prior season, she can also receive the current season vaccine later in pregnancy.

Can there be side effects from inactivated influenza vaccine?

Like any medicine, there is a potential for side effects. The most common side effects after influenza vaccination are mild, such as tenderness, redness and/or swelling at the injection site. Some people might have a headache, muscle aches, fever, nausea or feel tired.

If these symptoms occur, they usually begin soon after the vaccination and last 1–2 days. None of the common side effects endanger the baby.

Allergic reactions to vaccines are very rare. Anaphylaxis is the most serious form of allergic reaction and is potentially life-threatening. It is important to stay for 15 minutes following your influenza vaccination under observation as most allergic reactions occur within 15 minutes of a receiving a vaccine. It is important to tell your immunisation provider if you have any severe allergies or if you have ever had a severe allergic reaction following a vaccination.

Are there people who should not get the vaccine?

If you have ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction after a dose of any influenza vaccine, or if you have a severe allergy to any part of this vaccine, you should not get an influenza vaccine. Talk to your immunisation provider to check what is best suited to your needs.

Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty in breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, and weakness. These would start a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.

If you think you are having a severe allergic reaction or any other medical emergency that requires urgent attention, call 000 or go to the nearest hospital. Otherwise, call your doctor or after-hours GP.

Can I have the influenza vaccine and whooping cough vaccine at the same time?

Yes. You can get the influenza vaccine and whooping cough vaccine at the same time during your pregnancy. You can also get them at different visits.

Usually it is recommended for you to get the whooping cough vaccine when you are in the second or third trimester, ideally between 20 and 32 weeks of every pregnancy.

Can I have the influenza vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine at the same time?

Yes, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has advised that influenza vaccines can be co-administered (on the same day) with a COVID-19 vaccine.

Where can I get vaccinated?

Visit an immunisation provider such as a GP, antenatal clinic or Aboriginal Medical Service.

More information

Where to get help

  • See your doctor, obstetrician or midwife
  • Visit healthdirect (external site) or call 1800 022 222
  • Phone the National Immunisation Information Line on 1800 671 811
  • For emergency or life-threatening conditions, visit an emergency department or dial triple zero (000) to call an ambulance

Last reviewed: 28-04-2022
Acknowledgements

Public Health


This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

Image: Pregnant woman Text: Protect yourself and others this winter. Book your influenza vaccination.