Australians urged to get influenza vaccine as new supply gets a boost

Australians are being urged to “take advantage” of the flu shot as soon as possible to protect against the potentially deadly virus.

The government has secured a supply of new vaccines which protect against four strains of influenza virus this season, Health Minister Greg Hunt’s office has announced.

The new vaccines are now available free of charge to at-risk groups through the National Immunisation Program (NIP) and will also be available on the private market.

Around 4.5 million doses of seasonal influenza vaccines will be made available this year through the program.

Influenza is estimated to be responsible for more than 5000 hospitalisations and almost 170 deaths in Australia each year.

The best advice from medical experts is that it’s important to get a flu shot every year as the circulating viruses change.

A flu vaccine

The country’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy said people affected are most commonly young children and older adults. And pregnant women are at particularly high risk of becoming seriously ill with influenza.

“Influenza is a significant cause of illness and death and we know that getting an annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself, your family and the community from the virus,” the CMO said.

“I encourage people eligible to receive a free flu shot to take advantage of it.

“Receiving the vaccine from April allows protection from the flu to develop well ahead of the peak transmission period, which usually falls around August.”

The four influenza vaccines will cover two A strains of influenza (Michigan and Hong Kong) and two B strains of influenza (Brisbane and Phuket), as recommended by the World Health Organization.

For more information about influenza and immunisation see your doctor at Annandale Family Doctors or visit the Immunise Australia website at: www.immunise.health.gov.au