Flu vaccine for people aged 65 years and over

Influenza (or flu) is a serious illness caused by the seasonal flu virus. People aged 65 and over have an increased likelihood of severe illness, being admitted into hospital or dying from flu when compared to the general population.

Although the severity of the flu season can vary, we know that people aged 65 and over are most likely to impacted. The flu vaccine is the best protection against flu this winter.

For the 2021/2022 HSE seasonal vaccination programme, the Fluad Tetra flu vaccine will be offered to those aged 65 years and over. For people aged 65 years and over this is a more effective flu vaccine and this is the first year that it has been available in Ireland.

How the Fluad Tetra flu vaccine works

The vaccine helps your immune system to produce antibodies (proteins) that fight infection. If you have had the flu vaccine and you come into contact with the flu virus, the vaccine can stop you from getting sick.

The Fluad Tetra flu vaccine contains an adjuvant (ingredient) that will make it more effective.

As we get older our immune system may not respond to vaccines to the same extent. Therefore, the adjuvanted flu vaccine called Fluad Tetra is being offered to adults aged 65 years and over in the 2021/2022 campaign.

Adjuvants are substances added to vaccines to help generate a greater, broader and longer immune response. Adjuvants have been added to vaccines for many years to improve their effectiveness. 

The flu vaccine is the safest way for your body to develop immunity to flu this year.

People aged 65 years and over will need one dose of this vaccine to give protection that will last throughout this flu season.

Read more about the vaccine (Fluad Tetra) and its ingredients in the Health Products Regulatory Authority patient information leaflet and summary of product characteristics.

Flu vaccines available for people aged 65 and over

Fluad Tetra is the recommended flu vaccine for those aged 65 and over.

Although adults in this cohort may choose to receive either of the vaccines licensed in adults including the Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccine

All flu vaccines offer protection against flu and reduce the impact of flu if you were to catch it.

However, Fluad Tetra is only licensed for use in those aged 65 and over and offers the best protection against flu for this age group.

Side effects of the Fluad Tetra flu vaccine

The most common side effects are mild and include soreness, redness or swelling where the injection was given. Headache, fever, aches, drowsiness and tiredness may occur.

You may have mild sweating and shivering as your immune system responds to the vaccine. This is not flu and will pass in a day or so.

Serious side effects such as a severe allergic reaction are rare.

In very rare cases Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) has been reported (Guillain-Barré Syndrome is a condition that affects the nerves in the body. It causes nerve inflammation and can result in pain, numbness, muscle weakness and difficulty walking). However, the risk of GBS following flu is significantly greater than that following the flu vaccine.

Who should not get the Fluad Tetra flu vaccine

You should not get the flu vaccine if you

  • have had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to a previous dose of the flu vaccine or the any part of the vaccine (including polysorbate 80). Read the manufacturer’s Patient Information Leaflet to see the list of ingredients.
  • are taking medicines called combination checkpoint inhibitors, for example, ipilimumab plus nivolumab
  • have severe neutropoenia (low levels of a type of white blood cell)
    are ill with a temperature greater than 38 degrees Celsius - you should wait until you are well before getting the vaccine.

if you have an egg allergy, you should talk to your GP before getting the vaccine.

COVID-19 vaccines and the Fluad Tetra flu vaccine

The flu vaccine doesn’t protect against COVID-19. It is important to get both the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine. This is because Flu and COVID-19 are caused by different viruses.

Older adults are significantly more impacted by COVID-19 and flu. Flu and COVID-19 can both cause serious illness and if you get them you might need to be admitted to hospital. It may be difficult to tell the symptoms of flu apart from the symptoms of COVID-19.

If you have had the COVID-19 vaccine you should still get the flu vaccine.

You can get a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as the flu vaccine if it is offered to you.

Getting the Fluad Tetra flu vaccine

It is available from pharmacies and GP surgeries for people aged 65 years and over.

The vaccine and the consultation with your GP (Doctor) or pharmacist are free for people aged 65 years and over.

Adults aged 65 years and over and the pneumococcal vaccine

People aged 65 years and over, should also ask their GP (Doctor) or pharmacist about the pneumococcal vaccine, which protects against pneumonia. You usually only need to get pneumococcal vaccine once.

You can get this vaccine on the same day as the flu vaccine.


More information

This page was created on 30 September 2021