Vaccinations for the 2018 influenza (flu) season will shortly be delivered to medical centres and pharmacies across Australia. There are a number of important changes this year, implemented in response to the particularly severe flu season experienced last year.
Why should I get vaccinated against influenza?
- Influenza affects people of all ages and states of health.
- Vaccination not only provides protection for yourself but reduces the risk that the people you come into contact with will be infected.
- Vaccination does not guarantee that you will not get the flu, but provides our greatest protection against the widest circulating virus strains. In Australia, research suggests a 40-50% risk reduction in people who are vaccinated.
Changes affecting patients aged 65 years and over
In 2018, a ‘super’ high-dose vaccine will be provided under the National Immunisation Program for those aged 65 years and over. More than 90% of all flu-related deaths in 2017 affected this age group. This ‘super’ vaccine is a trivalent (three-strain) formulation and has been shown to generate a stronger immune response and provide more effective immunity from influenza in this age group.
This vaccine was specifically formulated for the 65+ year age group whose immune systems generally respond less effectively to vaccines.
N.B. It is NOT available for private purchase, or for any individual outside of the 65+ year age group.
Who is eligible to receive Government funded flu vaccinations?
The National Immunisation Program funds free vaccinations if you fit into one of the categories below:
- Aged 65 years or older
- Pregnant women (at any stage of pregnancy)
- Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people aged between 6 months & 5 years
- Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people aged over 15 years
- All persons aged 6 months and over who have certain medical conditions which increase the likelihood of developing complications from influenza, such as
- Diabetes or other metabolic disorders
- Chronic respiratory conditions (such as asthma, COPD, emphysema, cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis etc.)
- Cardiac disease or certain blood disorders (such as congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, congenital heart disease etc.)
- Renal (kidney) disease
- Chronic neurological conditions (such as seizure disorders, neuromuscular disorders, spinal cord injuries, CNS diseases etc.)
- Immuno-compromising conditions (such as HIV, AIDS, asplenia, splenic dysfunction etc.)
Vaccinations are available for private purchase for anyone who does not fit into one of the categories above, but still wishes to be protected. It is highly recommended for those who:
- Work in residential aged care facilities, hospitals, health care facilities or child care centres
- Use public transportation or fly regularly
- Live, care for or work with young children or the elderly or immune-compromised
- The homeless, or those who care for the homeless
When should you get vaccinated?
- The period when flu season is most active does vary from year to year, but is most commonly at its peak between June and September.
- Vaccination is generally recommended BEFORE the onset of the peak season.
- Vaccination provides greatest immune response within the first 3-4 months following vaccination.
- There is no evidence to suggest a second ‘dose’ extends this period of protection, so there is no need to have an additional dose.
- Your Doctor may suggest you get your vaccination much earlier, or later in the year if you are planning to travel internationally, to places where peak flu season occurs at different times of the year to Australia.