Powerful four-strain flu vaccine available for over 60s

A high-dose flu vaccine covering four strains is available to older Australians ahead of flu season this winter.

Known as Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivariant, the vaccine is available through prescription from a doctor or pharmacist for those aged 60 and over.

Adults over 60 – along with children aged five and under – have the highest infection rates of influenza among all age groups in Australia. They also account for 56 per cent of all hospitalisations due to flu.

The COVID pandemic has only complicated matters further. Not only are over 60s more susceptible to COVID as well, but the two similar respiratory viruses have combined to form a new monster dubbed ‘flurona’.

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The Fluzone vaccine is the first four-strain flu vaccine available in Australia and also represents the first time Australians as young as 60 can access anything other than the standard flu vaccine.

The vaccine will be available on private prescription at a cost of around $65 to $70. Private health insurance may reimburse some or all of the cost of the vaccine, depending on your level of cover.

It contains four times the active ingredient of a standard dose influenza vaccine and boosts the production of influenza-protective antibodies.

The vaccine has been welcomed by infectious diseases expert Professor Paul Van Buynder from Griffith University.

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“While adults aged 65 and older and those who are medically at-risk are eligible for other influenza vaccines free of charge via the National Immunisation Program, this is the first high-dose influenza vaccine indicated for Australians as young as 60,” Prof. Van Buynder said.

“This is a welcome option for older Australians and in particular the 1.5 million Australians aged 60-64 ahead of what may be a rebound influenza season resulting from less herd immunity over the past couple of years.

“Effective vaccination is paramount in reducing influenza, related deaths, hospitalisations and associated complications, such as pneumonia and serious cardiovascular events.”

Despite the alarming hospitalisation rates for older Australians due to influenza, there is sometimes a tendency for people to treat it as nothing serious.

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Rates of influenza have been down across Australia over the past two years because of widespread lockdowns. But the nation is open again and health authorities are warning the coming flu seasons could be worse than ever.

“There is a common misperception that influenza, or ‘the flu’, is just a bad cold that might put you in bed for some time. Unfortunately, that is far from the truth,” Professor Van Buynder says.

“It’s important that the community, particularly the elderly and those with health issues, recognise the real risks posed by influenza.

“All adults should be vaccinated against influenza, and I encourage older Australians to speak with their doctor about how to best protect themselves against influenza this flu season.”

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Written by Brad Lockyer

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