Statement from the Chief Medical Officer 6 March 2019 at https://beta.health.gov.au/news-and-events/media-releases/2019-influenza-vaccines Influenza seasons and severity are unpredictable. However, what we do know is that vaccination is the most important measure we have to prevent influenza and its complications. This year, more than 6 million doses have been secured to ensure Australians who are most at risk of getting sick during this year’s flu season are able to access free influenza vaccines through the Government’s National Immunisation Program. Those eligible for a free flu shot under the National Immunisation Program include people 65 years and over, pregnant women, those who suffer chronic conditions as well as, for the first time, all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People from 6 months of age. Annual vaccination is recommended for anyone six months of age and older, with those not eligible under the program able to purchase the vaccine on the private market. The more people who are vaccinated, the less likely that the flu will spread in the community. Influenza is a major cause of illness in the Australian community, and in some cases can result in death. It important to get the flu shot each year, as the virus changes each year. In addition we know that the protection provided by the previous year’s vaccine diminishes over time. This year there is a new A strain (H3N2) and a new strain for the B Victoria linage. Influenza virus strains included in the 2019 seasonal influenza vaccines are: A (H1N1): an A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1)pdm09 like virus A (H3N2): an A/Switzerland/8060/2017 (H3N2) like virus B: a B/Colorado/06/2017 like virus (not included in the trivalent vaccine) B: a B/Phuket/3073/2013 like virus Four different quadrivalent influenza vaccine brands are being supplied under the Program in 2019 for people aged under 65. To continue to provide the best possible protection for those 65 years and over, an enhanced trivalent vaccine is being supplied for those aged 65 years and over. Most people will develop immunity within two to three weeks of vaccination. Experts have advised there is recent evidence suggesting that protection following influenza vaccination may begin to wane. As influenza usually occurs from June, with the peak around August, vaccinating from mid-April 2019 will allow people to develop immunity before influenza transmission is at its peak. You can also speak with your doctor for advice on the best time to receive your vaccine, based on your individual circumstances. For more information about the influenza vaccine, speak to your GP.
The Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) records all vaccinations given to people of all ages, including National Immunisation Program schedule vaccines, flu, shingles and travel vaccinations. The number of children fully immunised in Australia has hit a record high of 94.5% for five year olds and 93.8% for one year olds. In a significant milestone, the vaccination rate among Indigenous children has also reached the highest recorded level. We consider it is important to record vaccines given to our patients on the AIR because AIR records data to: Monitor vaccination coverage across Australia; Monitor the effectiveness of vaccines and vaccination programs; Inform immunisation policy and research; Identify any parts of Australia at risk during disease outbreaks; Show a person’s immunisation status, regardless of where they were immunised; Assess eligibility for Family Tax Benefit and Child Care Subsidy payments; and Provide proof of vaccination for entry to child care and school and for employment purposes. These statistics and information comes from the Department of Human Services. For more information go to humanservices.gov.au/hpair