Statement from the Chief Medical Officer
Influenza seasons and severity are unpredictable. However, what we do know is that vaccination is the most important measure we have to prevent influenza and its complications.
This year, more than 6 million doses have been secured to ensure Australians who are most at risk of getting sick during this year’s flu season are able to access free influenza vaccines through the Government’s National Immunisation Program.
Those eligible for a free flu shot under the National Immunisation Program include people 65 years and over, pregnant women, those who suffer chronic conditions as well as, for the first time, all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People from 6 months of age. Closing this gap means that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and adolescents aged 5-14 years of age will now be able to access the flu vaccine at no cost.
Annual vaccination is recommended for anyone six months of age and older, with those not eligible under the program able to purchase the vaccine on the private market.
The more people who are vaccinated, the less likely that the flu will spread in the community. Influenza is a major cause of illness in the Australian community, and in some cases can result in death.
It important to get the flu shot each year, as the virus changes each year. In addition we know that the protection provided by the previous year’s vaccine diminishes over time.
This year there is a new A strain (H3N2) and a new strain for the B Victoria linage. Influenza virus strains included in the 2019 seasonal influenza vaccines are:
- A (H1N1): an A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1)pdm09 like virus
- A (H3N2): an A/Switzerland/8060/2017 (H3N2) like virus
- B: a B/Colorado/06/2017 like virus (not included in the trivalent vaccine)
- B: a B/Phuket/3073/2013 like virus
Four different quadrivalent influenza vaccine brands are being supplied under the Program in 2019 for people aged under 65. These are Afluria Quad® (Seqirus), Flu Quadri® and Flu Quadri Junior® (Sanofi) and Fluarix Tetra® (GSK).
To continue to provide the best possible protection for those 65 years and over, an enhanced trivalent vaccine, Fluad® (Seqirus), is being supplied for those aged 65 years and over.
Most people will develop immunity within two to three weeks of vaccination. Experts have advised there is recent evidence suggesting that protection following influenza vaccination may begin to wane. As influenza usually occurs from June, with the peak around August, vaccinating from mid-April 2019 will allow people to develop immunity before influenza transmission is at its peak. You can also speak with your doctor for advice on the best time to receive your vaccine, based on your individual circumstances.
For more information about the influenza vaccine, speak to your GP or other immunisation provider or visit www.health.gov.au/immunisation