New season flu vaccine available
A new four-strain flu vaccine, protecting against the Brisbane virus, is being made available for at-risk Australians for free from April.
Last year, of more than 100,000 people diagnosed with confirmed influenza, some 17,000 were hospitalised with an estimate seven percent of these requiring admission to an intensive care unit.
Immunisations in April will help build up immunity in time for the peak flu season due in August 2016.
Minister for Health Sussan Ley today announced the Federal Government had already begun rolling out the new 2016 vaccine, with $31.3 million made available for up to 4.48 million free doses of the new flu booster.
Ms Ley said the Government had moved quickly to upgrade Australia's flu vaccine stocks from three strains to four, after the arrival of the Brisbane flu strain last year led to 2015 being recorded as the worst flu season in years.
"Last year we saw the arrival of some nasty strains of flu, like Brisbane, that led to nearly one-in-five recorded influenza cases ending up in hospital, which is why we've acted decisively to boost the national booster in 2016," Ms Ley said.
"While many of us view the flu as nothing more than an annual inconvenience, some recent strains have seen serious complications in normally healthy people and it's important for the health, safety and productivity of not only yourself, but the nation, you get the flu shot before the flu gets you."
Those at increased risk of severe influenza and its complications include; people aged over 65 years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months to five years and older than 15 years. These youngsters are twice as likely to be hospitalised as a result of infection and five times more likely to die.
Also at a heightened risk are pregnant women and someone with a medical condition, such as severe asthma, diabetes or heart disease.
Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer Chris Baggoley advised this year’s vaccine would protect against four strains of influenza virus, up from three in 2015.
“The Department of Health works closely with companies to secure supplies of vaccines each year, with priority given to ensuring all eligible people are able to access the free vaccine across the country throughout the season.
The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone from six months of age, but is available free under the National Immunisation Program for people who face a high risk from influenza and its complications. These are:
To receive your influenza vaccination, visit your local doctor or immunisation provider.
It is important to note that while the vaccine is free, a consultation fee may apply.
For more information about the 2016 seasonal influenza vaccine, see www.immunise.health.gov.au/ or call the Immunise Australia Information line on 1800 671 811.
8 April 2016.