The immunisation campaign against influenza was not as effective as hoped in 2017. In response, the guidelines and vaccines have changed this year.
Key Summary Information For 2018:
- Have your vaccine in May. If you vaccinate too early, your immunity might wear off before the end of the flu season. If you had your vaccine in March you may need a booster dose later in the year (not government funded).
- Over 65s will receive a different formulation, to promote a stronger immune response in the body. There are two different “high strength” vaccines available, and if you are over 65 you should choose one of these over the standard ones.
- Young children should be vaccinated. There is a strong push to ensure as many children as possible receive their vaccine, and the Victorian government has funded vaccines for those aged 6 months to 5 years.
- Pregnant women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and those with chronic conditions remain a high priority for vaccination in 2018.
We Recommend That You Have Your Vaccine In May
This is enough time before influenza normally circulates, but not too early. Immunity wears off after a few months and influenza is often still active in September and October.
Over 65s Will Get A Higher Potency Vaccine
In 2017 the vaccines were not as effective as hoped. Two new high potency vaccines are available this year (trivalent, against 3 strains). They will be supplied to medical centres by the government for those 65 and over in late April. Make sure you have one of these new vaccines from your doctor, rather than the standard (quadrivalent) vaccines that might be on offer elsewhere.
Under 65 With A Chronic Medical Condition?
People under 65 with ongoing medical conditions including diabetes should get the quadrivalent (4 strain) vaccine supplied free under the government scheme. Not all chronic medical conditions qualify, so check at the link below or ask your doctor.
Everyone Should Consider A Flu Vaccine In 2018
Doctors are recommending vaccination to more and more people. Influenza killed at least 745 people in 2017 in Australia, and although most of those were elderly it does kill otherwise healthy people and causes thousands of hospital admissions. Please encourage family members to consider vaccinating themselves, even if healthy. All children aged 6 months to 5 years and all pregnant women can have free vaccines. Doctors and authorities recommend that all children be vaccinated, even if they don’t get the free government vaccine. The more people around you that are vaccinated, the less transmission of influenza occurs. We can protect the people who are at high risk by vaccinating as many people as possible. The cost ($15 at RPM) is very reasonable for a treatment that genuinely saves lives.
Risks From The Vaccine Are Very Low
There are some risks, as with any medical treatment, but they are rare. It is common to hear people say they had a reaction to the vaccine, but when studied these reactions are usually mild and lasting a day or two (sore around the injection site, muscle aches, low grade fever). As the vaccine does not contain any live virus at all, you cannot get the actual influenza from having the vaccine. Serious allergies or complications are very rare indeed. Egg allergy is not a significant concern any more — the risk of reaction is still very low but if you are allergic to egg you should have your vaccine at a medical facility where you can be monitored for 30 minutes afterwards.
While you are having your flu vaccine, ask your doctor if you also need a pneumococcal vaccination. This is free for over 65s, and is on prescription for others with chronic conditions. Sometimes a booster dose is recommended after 5 years. It can be given on the same day as the flu vaccine.
This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professional. The authors have made considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. Royal Park Medical accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen.