Australians will soon have access to the new influenza vaccine that will protect against four strains of influenza. This includes one strain that shares the name of Queensland’s capital city.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt’s office announced the Australian Government has secured a supply of the new influenza vaccine, which protect against two A strains of influenza (known as Michigan and Hong Kong) and two B strains of influenza (known as Brisbane and Phuket).
The new vaccines will be made available free of charge to at-risk groups from mid-April as part of the National Immunisation Program.
They will also be available on the private market.
But don’t be confused if it seems a little early to be protecting yourself against what is predominantly a winter illness.
Getting the influenza vaccine early allows you to develop protection against the flu well before the peak transmission period, which usually happens around August.
Also, the more people who get vaccinated, the less influenza will be spread through the community. This mean that everyone will be better protected.
In 2016 Queensland was labelled the flu capital of Australia after recording the highest rates of influenza in the country.
It’s expected about 4.5 million doses of seasonal influenza vaccines will be available through the National Immunisation Program in 2017.
In a statement, the Health Minister’s office said getting an annual influenza vaccine was “the best way to protect yourself, your family and the community from the virus”.
“The best advice from medical experts is that it’s important to get a flu shot every year. This is due to the fact that circulating viruses change,” the Government recommends.
What are the risks of influenza?
It’s estimated more than 5,000 people are hospitalized each year in Australia due to influenza.
The virus is also responsible for about 170 deaths each year.
Australia’s chief medical officer Professor Brendan Murphy said young children and older adults were the groups most commonly affected by influenza, while pregnant women had a particularly high risk of becoming seriously ill.
“Influenza is a significant cause of illness and death and we know that getting an annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself, your family and the community from the virus,” Professor Murphy said.
“I encourage people eligible to receive a free flu shot to take advantage of it. Receiving the vaccine from April allows protection from the flu to develop well ahead of the peak transmission period.”
The different types of flu vaccines
This year there will be four flu vaccines available under the NIP:
- Fluarix Tetra and FluQuadri for eligible people aged three years and older
- FluQuadri Junior for eligible children aged between six months and three years
- Afluria Quad for eligible people aged 18 years and older.
For more information you can speak to your GP or visit the Immunise Australia website. If you’re suffering from flu-like symptoms and it’s after hours call a home doctor Brisbane homeowners trust. You can book online, via the free mobile app or by calling 13 55 66.