The Federal Government will spend $31 million to protect older Australians from a mutated flu virus, after the 2017 flu season caused the deaths of more than 1100 people, mostly aged over 65.
The horror flu season has prompted the Government to pay for stronger flu vaccinations in an effort to prevent another catastrophic outbreak.
“It was a horror flu season last year, a mutation in the flu strain, that led to some tragedies with seniors,” said Health Minister Greg Hunt.
“The two new vaccines are about giving Australians the best chance at getting through the flu season with as little impact as possible.
“We will be making it available free of charge to everybody over the age of 65 because sadly, that’s where 95 per cent of those who lost their lives are from in terms of age.
“And this is the world’s leading vaccine and in particular we have been able to secure supplies for all Australians that will require it. So, I think that’s a real breakthrough.”
The Australian Government Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy said last year’s season was particularly deadly because the virus mutated mid-season, meaning vaccinations were relatively useless. The new vaccines contain four times the amount of antigen to help fight each of the three strains of flu, as well as a chemical to boost immune systems in older people.
“One of them has more of the killed-virus antigen in it, that produces a stronger immune response, and the other one has a standard amount of the antigen but has … a chemical which tickles up the immune system to respond better,” said Prof Murphy.
Did you deal with flu last year? Did you have a flu shot?