Flu vaccinations for people with heart conditions

The flu (influenza) puts people with heart conditions at risk of serious illness or even death. A flu vaccination reduces your chance of getting sick and going to hospital. We explain why it's important to get both a flu and a Covid-19 vaccination.

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Influenza, or the flu, is a viral infection of your nose, throat and lungs. It can be a serious illness and kills around 500 New Zealanders a year.

It puts stress on your body and can increase:

If you have a heart condition, the flu can make you very ill. Sometimes this can result in hospital visits or even death.

A flu vaccination reduces your risk of catching the flu and getting seriously ill.

Free flu vaccinations

In New Zealand, the flu vaccine is free for people aged 65 and older. It's also free for anyone with diabetes, or most heart and lung conditions, including:

  • heart disease (coronary artery disease)
  • heart failure
  • rheumatic heart disease
  • heart conditions you're born with (congenital heart conditions)
  • conditions that affect the blood vessels and brain, like stroke (cerebrovascular conditions).

Pregnant women, and children under four years old with lung conditions like asthma, are also eligible. The flu jab is not given to children under 6 months old.

For a full list of conditions that are covered, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

If you're not eligible for a free flu vaccination, you can still pay to get one. Talk to your doctor or pharmacy about the cost and when you can get one.

Where to get a flu vaccine

You can get flu vaccinations from:

  • your doctor
  • some pharmacies (chemists)
  • some workplaces.

Find out where to get a flu vaccine on the fightflu.co.nz website.

When to get vaccinated

If you're over 65 or have a heart condition, you should get vaccinated as soon as possible. It takes two weeks to develop full protection so the sooner the better.

If you're not in a high-risk group, talk to your doctor or pharmacy about when you can get a flu vaccination, and how much it will cost.

Side effects

Most people don't have any side effects from the flu vaccination.

The most common reaction is pain and redness where you had the injection.

Sometimes the vaccination causes headaches, muscle aches or fever. These should only last a day or two.

Allergic reactions are very rare.

You will be asked to wait for about 20 minutes at the doctor or pharmacy after your vaccination to make sure you don't have a severe allergic reaction.

If you've had an allergic reaction to a vaccination before, tell your nurse or doctor before you get the injection.

Covid vaccination and flu vaccination

If you have a heart condition, it’s important to get a flu vaccination and a Covid-19 vaccination, so that you don’t get sick from either illness.

Heart medication

The flu vaccination will not affect your heart medication.

Heart surgery

If you've had heart surgery, it's important for you to get the flu vaccination. This is because you're more at risk of getting seriously ill if you get the flu. 

If your surgery was recent, speak to your doctor about when you can get the vaccination. 

When shouldn't you have a flu vaccination?

  • If you've got a temperature (fever) of 38˚C or higher, or you’re very unwell. If you've just got a cold, with no temperature, you're still ok to have a vaccination.
  • If you've had a Covid-19 vaccine in the last 2 weeks. 
  • If you're having certain cancer treatments (talk to your doctor for more detail). 

It's also important to talk to your health professional before getting the vaccine if you: 

  • have had Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • have had an allergic reaction to a vaccination before.

Get vaccinated yearly

You need to get your flu vaccination at the start of every winter, to make sure you’re protected for that year's flu.

How to stay healthy this winter