Wait a bit longer for that flu jab

The Federal Government has allocated $31 million to protect older Australians from the flu this year after a horror 2017, but a leading health group says if you are over 65 you should hold off.

The Immunisation Coalition, a leading voice in whole-of-life immunisation, is urging people over 65 to wait for the two new enhanced vaccines funded by the Government under the National Immunisation Program (NIP). It says they will offer better protection to the elderly, but will only be available through your GP from April.

The Immunisation Coalition said that of the 1100 deaths from influenza-related conditions in Australia last year, 90 per cent were people aged 65 and over.

“Recent studies have shown that traditional flu vaccines don’t protect the elderly very well against flu and its complications, as older persons’ immune systems don’t respond as well to vaccines,” an Immunisation Coalition spokesperson said.

As a result, this year, people aged 65 and older were being provided with one of two free new enhanced vaccines: a high-dose version with four times the dose and a version with an additional ingredient to boost effectiveness.

Compared to the standard flu vaccine, both have been shown to better stimulate the immune systems of older people to make protective antibodies. These vaccines are available only to people aged 65 or older.

The Immunisation Coalition said it was concerned that some current advertisements might be confusing and urged older people to wait for the enhanced vaccines.

Australia’s immunisation program provides free flu vaccines for the elderly, as well as other high-risk groups including pregnant women, those with chronic diseases and Indigenous Australians.

The Immunisation Coalition recommends that anyone older than six months get vaccinated. 

“If you are young fit and healthy, having a flu shot will not only protect yourself but people around you – babies, immune-compromised people and the elderly. Vulnerable people need protection from herd immunity,” said Paul Van Buynder, Immunisation Coalition chairman.

Will you get a flu shot this year? Have you had one already?

Related articles:
Does the vaccine work?
Breathing spreads flu
$31m to fight the flu

Written by Janelle Ward

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