The northern hemisphere have just experienced a bad flu season, so with winter now heading in our direction, the pressure is on to get vaccinated against flu. This year, a few things are different when it comes to getting your flu jab in Australia – mainly due to a delay in vaccine stocks, the confusion surrounding how best to protect yourself and the introduction of an all new "super vaccine".
As a result of this delay, at risk groups who are able to access the vaccine for free as part of the public immunisation program, now have a shorter time period in which to get their jab before June or July - the time when flu symptoms usually peak in Australia.
Under the National Influenza Vaccination Program, free seasonal influenza vaccine is available for the following people:
All people aged 65 years and over
All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 6 months to 5 years
All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over
People aged 6 months and over with medical conditions predisposing to severe influenza, namely:
Cardiac disease, including cyanotic congenital heart disease, coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure
Chronic respiratory conditions, including suppurative lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and severe asthma
Other chronic illnesses requiring regular medical follow up or hospitalisation in the previous year, including diabetes mellitus, chronic metabolic diseases, chronic renal failure, and haemoglobinopathies
Chronic neurological conditions that impact on respiratory function, including multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, and seizure disorders
Impaired immunity, including HIV, malignancy and chronic steroid use
Children aged 6 months to 10 years on long term aspirin therapy
(Source: NSW Health. For additional information go to: www.health.nsw.gov.au/immunisation)
Now that we are well into the official vaccination season, people are being urged to book an appointment with their GP as soon as possible to avoid putting too much stress on doctors' surgeries – especially those most at risk.
Recent reports that there is a ‘’Super Vaccine’’ providing protection against four strains of flu instead of three are true. This year, two new flu vaccines – aptly named ‘’quadrivalent" because they protect against four virus strains - will be available privately.
People wanting this added protection would need to specifically request the "super vaccine" when getting the script for your flu jab from your GP.