March 2016


Vaccination remains the best protection we have against Influenza


Each year in April I like to remind people that the influenza vaccine, more commonly called the flu vaccine is available. The influenza virus is constantly changing so it is important to receive vaccination against the flu every year in order to be protected against the most common strains.
Getting an annual flu vaccination is a very important and effective measure in preventing the illness. The best time to be vaccinated is as early as possible when the flu vaccine is available to ensure maximum protection. The protection develops two weeks after getting the injection and lasts up to a year. Every year people need to be re-vaccinated.
Influenza is a highly contagious infection of the nose, throat and lungs. Its effects are rapidly felt throughout the whole body. Every year during the winter months, most parts of the world experience an outbreak of influenza known as flu.
Most young and fit people will recover fairly quickly from influenza, but for others, it can be a serious life-threatening illness.

In an average year it’s estimated that 1500 Australians die and 20,000 to 40,000 are hospitalised as a result of the flu.

Influenza is caused by a virus. There are two main viruses which cause the disease, influenza A and influenza B. Each year, the virus changes slightly so that different forms of one of these viruses appear every year. The health authorities in this country go to great lengths to try to anticipate the change so that a vaccine can be developed.
The formulation of the influenza vaccines for use in Australia is determined each year by the Australian Influenza Vaccine Committee (AIVC) based on recommendations from the World Health Organisation.
For the 2017 year the AVIC has recommended that the influenza vaccine for Australia is recommended to contain the following strains:
• A(H1N1) A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1) pdm09 like virus;
• A(H3N2) A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 like virus;
• B/Brisbane/60/2008 like virus;
• B/Phuket/3073/2013 like virus;

These are the four strains expected to circulate this year. To provide continuing protection annual vaccination with the vaccine containing the most recent strains is necessary.

The latest vaccines are the quadrivalent vaccines. Again this yearthe quadrivalent vaccine has been selected by the Federal Department of Health as the preferred vaccine, and is the vaccine offered at Rose Bay Family Medical Centre.

The quadrivalent vaccine recommended by the Federal Department of Health for this year introduces a new strain the A(H1N1) A/Michigan /45 / 2015 (H1N1) pdm09 like virus.

This year under the National Immunisation Program for Influenza the quadrivalent vaccines will be available for eligible people free of charge, and for people who are not eligible under the National Immunisation program the quadrivalent vaccine will be available for purchase.

Influenza is generally spread by ‘droplet infection’. That means it is spread by the coughs and sneezes of an infected person which create little droplets which hang in the air. These droplets are then inhaled by other people. The infection starts in the nose and throat of the recipient person and may spread further down into the lungs which can result in bronchitis or pneumonia.

The patient with influenza will typically complain of feeling cold shivers or a high temperature which may come on suddenly, aching muscles (myalgia) and aching joint pains, a sore throat and a bad cough. The person feels very unwell and may be tired and lethargic for several days.

Almost anyone can get influenza, but there are a number of ‘high risk’ groups who are likely to be affected.

The single most important preventative measure one can take is to be vaccinated against the flu. The vaccine is a single injection which can be given by your family doctor.

The aim of the immunisation is to expose an individual to either a dead or inactive virus so that the body can mount an antibody response. The response is remembered by the immune system so that if it is exposed to a real influenza attack, the body can mount a much quicker and larger response to it.

The best time to be vaccinated is before influenza occurs in the community. This is usually in Autumn, but vaccination can still take place in the first few months of Winter.

For the 2017 influenza season the following groups are eligible for a free influenza vaccine:
• All people aged 65 years and over
• All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over
• All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 6 months to less than 5 years.
• All people aged 6 months and over who are at severe risk of outcomes from seasonal influenza, such as those with chronic conditions, including cardiac disease; respiratory diseases including: COPD, asthma and cystic fibrosis; diabetes and renal failure and people with neurological impairment who have compromised respiratory function and people with impaired immunity and children aged 6 months to 10 years on long term aspirin therapy.
• Pregnant women

Annual influenza vaccination is recommended but not provided free for, people who can transmit influenza to persons at an increased risk such as staff at nursing homes, nurses, teachers and volunteer workers and persons who provide essential community services. It is also recommended for all household contacts and other close contacts of children and adults with a medical condition that puts them at increased risk of influenza complications.

The vaccine should not be given to anyone who suffers from severe egg or chicken feather allergies. The vaccine is a safe vaccine. It can cause redness or soreness at the injection site, but severe side effects are extremely rare. Inactivated influenza vaccine has been available for over fifty years. Since that time, the formulation has been continually improved resulting in far less adverse reactions.

Now’s the time!!!……….talk to your family doctor about the flu vaccine.

Most people are aware of the benefits of having a vaccination each year to protect themselves against influenza.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation also recommends that all people over 65 years of age should have an additional vaccine known as the Pneumococcal Vaccine. This vaccine is now provided free to all Australians over 65 years of age. This winter, be fully covered: add pneumococcal vaccination to your ‘flu vaccine. Talk to your doctor about the pneumococcal vaccine.


Immunisation is there to protect you against disease.
Now is the time to talk to your doctor about both the pneumococcal vaccination and the seasonal influenza vaccination.



*The information given in this article is of a general nature and readers should seek advice from their own medical practitioner before embarking on any treatment.