Professor Brendan Murphy, Chief Medical Officer for the government, has refuted claims a cheap vaccine failed to protect the elderly in what has been Australia’s worst flu season on record.
More than 217,000 Australians had laboratory confirmed cases of the flu this year – more than double the previous record of just over 100,000 in 2015.
Immunisation Coalition chair Professor Paul van Buynder told NewsCorp on Monday that a $6 version of the flu vaccine, which did not properly protect the elderly, was the problem.
Despite a horror flu season, Prof Murphy said the claims were “utterly false” and stood by the vaccine being used around the world.
“The flu vaccines chosen this year were the best available on the Australian market, selected by medical experts in Australia and around the world,” Prof Murphy said.
“They are the same vaccines which are available and used in the UK, US and other countries, and the same vaccines available on the private market in Australia.
“The two vaccines mentioned in the media today are not available in Australia because the companies have not had them registered for use in Australia with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
“They have, therefore, not submitted an application for their use in the National Immunisation Program with the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC).
“A vaccine cannot be considered by the PBAC, unless a company submits an application and the vaccine has been approved for use in Australia by the TGA.”
In a press conference, Prof Murphy said the influenza A strain of the virus underwent change throughout the season resulting in the elderly responding poorly to the flu.
“Another very important factor this year was the nature of the predominant influenza A strain, which is a virus that did seem to undergo some change during the year, and generally vaccine protection was less across the whole community for this strain,” he said.
“So the elderly had a double impact, as you might think, from a virus that changed a bit and, generally, they have a weaker immune response.”
Did you have a flu shot this year? If so, did it protect you from the flu, or did you get it regardless?