Q fever FAQs

How long does the vaccine take to be effective? When can I safely work with cattle, sheep, goats etc?

You will need to wait a full 2 weeks after having the vaccine before you will have the protection that you need.

How long has the vaccine been around for?

The vaccine against Q fever has been used since 1989.

What after-effects will I have from the injection?

You are likely to have a sore arm for a few days after the vaccine, but nothing very serious. It feels a bit like a tetanus vaccine.

Can I have other vaccines in that same arm afterwards?

No, we recommend that your other arm is used for vaccines for at least 3 months, e.g. if you need a flu vaccine.

Does numbing cream help if the injection is painful?

Usually we don’t recommend numbing cream. We especially recommend avoiding numbing cream before your skin test, as it can interfere with the test.

You don’t need the vaccine until the second visit, so the doctor can discuss the numbing cream and use of paracetamol (see question below) with you on your first visit.

Will it be helpful to take paracetamol before the injection?

Not especially – most people don’t need paracetamol before the injection. However if you do get sick and need paracetamol for other reasons, it won’t interact or be a problem.

Are Q fever injections safe for children and babies?

Q fever vaccine is recommended for persons over 15 years of age. The vaccine can be given to some children if they are at significant risk of contracting the disease, as some children do get sick with Q fever.  A small amount of data shows that it is safe to give children the vaccine if it is needed, but you should speak to your doctor about this.


If I’m breast feeding is it safe to have the injection?

The Q fever vaccine is a dead vaccine, so it is not likely to get into the breastmilk. However there is no data or studies in breastfeeding women to prove that it is safe to have the vaccine when breastfeeding. We just don’t know, so it will depend on balancing the risk and benefits; for example, if you were at high risk of catching Q fever, then it may be worth having the vaccine. You would have to discuss your situation with your doctor. 

Can I have the Q fever vaccine a second time if I lose my records?

No, it is not necessary to have it twice. It’s also generally not recommended to have the vaccine twice, because you get too many side effects.  That is why we recommend you agree to notify the Q fever register so your vaccine records don’t get lost (it is not mandatory to notify the register). 

How common is Q fever really?

A study of 2,740 blood donors in NSW and Queensland found evidence of infection in 3.6% of the population – it was more common in those living in rural areas


Is it really necessary to have this vaccine if I only have occasional exposure, and I don't know anyone who has had Q fever?

This is a bit of a philosophical question and depends on your personal risk tolerance. While Q fever is not that common, it is a horrible – mostly untreatable – disease. If you are in a risk group the vaccine is definitely recommended.


Can you catch Q fever if you don’t work with cattle, sheep, or goats?

Yes. Like COVID-19, Q fever is spread by breathing infected aerosols, so if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time you can pick it up.

There have been cases of people catching this disease from very limited exposure, in sometimes unexpected or improbable settings:

  • Family members catching it from dust on the clothes of abattoir workers
  • A poker-playing group infected by exposure to an infected cat that gave birth to kittens in the same room
  • Infection of actors in a Nativity play involving a shepherd and his dog
  • Outbreak in a School of Arts, possibly associated with unpacking a statue wrapped in contaminated straw
  • A Q fever outbreak in a cosmetics factory where manufacture included powdered sheep placenta and foetal tissue
  • 229 cases in visitors to an agricultural fair in Germany who visited a stall displaying newborn lambs from a single infected ewe     
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