Fight the Flu – 2017 Seasonal Flu Vaccination Available
Get the Flu Shot Before the Flu Gets You
As we approach the flu season in Australia, protect yourself and your loved ones from this serious illness by getting the influenza vaccine.
Immunisation is recommended in early autumn to allow time for immunity to be strengthened before the flu season starts.
Influenza (flu) is a highly contagious viral infection that is responsible for major outbreaks of respiratory illness around the world, usually in the winter months. Unlike the common cold, influenza can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications such as pneumonia and bronchitis, which often require hospitalisation.
Influenza spreads from person to person through the air by coughing or sneezing, or by direct contact with the virus on hard surfaces or people’s hands. The flu usually differs from a cold as symptoms develop suddenly, and can lead to complications such as chest infections and pneumonia – particularly among the elderly and young children.
The influenza virus changes with time and so each year the influenza vaccine is tailored to target the main influenza strains causing illness.
Both quadrivalent influenza vaccine (QIV) and trivalent influenza vaccine (TIV) formulations are available in Australia in 2016. The Quadrivalent vaccine protects against four strains of influenza viruses while the Trivalent vaccine protects against the three strains of flu – two A strains and one B strain.
Flu Vaccination for Children
Children aged six months to 9 years require 2 doses given 4 weeks apart if they have not had the flu vaccine before. In subsequent years they only need a single booster dose. The only way to protect children under six months of age is to make sure all members of the household have the influenza vaccine.
The flu vaccine is available free of charge for children who are at the higher risk of complications: for example those with heart or lung conditions including severe asthma), or for a low fee for healthy children (around $25).
Even healthy children can be unwell with the flu causing them to take time off school for a number of days and they may experience complications such as pneumonia or bronchitis. While the vaccine does not protect them completely from all illness it does significantly reduce their chances of a serious illness.
Specific brands of flu vaccine are registered with the TGA for use in children. In 2016, two age-specific flu vaccines will be available under the National Immunisation Program – one for children under three years of age, and another for people aged three years and over:
- Sanofi’s FluQuadri® Junior for children under three years of age.
- GlaxoSmithKline Fluarix Tetra® for people aged three years and older.
Parents should make sure vaccination providers know how old their children are so they can receive the correct vaccine.
Seqirus (formerly bioCSL) flu vaccine Fluvax® is not registered for use in children less than five years of age and must not be given in this age group. In addition, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation does not recommend the use of Seqirus Fluvax® in children aged five to nine years due to a potential increased risk of fever. However, febrile convulsions are rare in this age group. The use of Seqirus Fluvax® in children aged five to nine years should only be considered after careful review of the potential benefits and risks. A number of other flu vaccines are approved for use in these age groups. Note, Seqirus Fluvax® is not available under the National Immunisation Program.
If you would like further information on the flu vaccine contact Melbourne Paediatric Specialists or visit the Australian Government Department of health website “Immunise Australia Program” – Influenza (Flu)
At the Melbourne Children’s Travel Clinic in addition to our specialised travel vaccine service, we can provide advice on all immunisations including influenza vaccine and other routine childhood vaccinations. The flu vaccine can be provided to parents during your travel clinic appointment.