More than 4.5 million Australians who are most at risk of getting sick during this year’s flu season can now access a free influenza vaccine, under the Federal Government’s National Immunisation Program.
Last year we saw the highest influenza activity in Australia in almost a decade, mirroring a global trend, with more than 250,000 Australians testing positive for influenza and double the normal hospitalisations.
I urge all Australians to consider getting a flu shot this year. Annual influenza vaccination is recommended for any person six months of age and older, with vaccines also available on the private market.
It’s important to get the flu shot every year, as the virus changes year to year.
Those who are eligible for a free flu shot under the National Immunisation Program include people aged 65 years and over, most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and those who suffer from chronic conditions.
Flu shots are available now at general practices and other vaccination providers. They’re also available for purchase at many pharmacies.
Last year over 90 per cent of the 1,100 influenza-associated deaths were in people aged 65 years and older and this year we have taken specific action to address this.
Two new ground-breaking flu vaccines are now available for Australians aged over 65. These are specifically targeted at this age group, offering stronger doses and now available for the first time in Australia.
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, said “Getting vaccinated from mid-April will ensure you are protected before Australia’s peak flu period, from around June to September.”
“Getting vaccinated is not only safe, but is it is the most effective way of protecting yourself,” Professor Murphy said.
“All influenza vaccines available in Australia have been through stringent safety testing by the Therapeutic Goods Administration and continue to be monitored on an ongoing basis.”
“The flu jab does not contain any live virus, so you cannot get the flu from the vaccine and we know that high vaccination rates contribute to a healthy community,” Professor Murphy said.
The following four strains are contained within this year’s flu vaccine:
• A(H1N1): an A/Michigan/45/2015(H1N1) pdm09 like virus
• A(H3N2): an A/Singapore/INFIMH-16-0019/2016(H3N2) like virus
• B: a B/Phuket/3073/2013 like virus
• B: a B/Brisbane/60/2008 like virus
The composition of the Australian vaccine is decided by the Australian Influenza Vaccine Committee in consultation with the World Health Organization.
Influenza vaccines are age-specific, so ask your doctor about the best vaccine for you or your child’s circumstances.
For more information visit the Immunise Australia website at: www.immunise.health.gov.au