Get the flu shot early to beat it

4.5m free vac­cines


AL­MOST 50,000 Vic­to­ri­ans bat­tled the flu dur­ing last year’s deadly sea­son which claimed more than 200 lives.

Alarm­ing new data shows the flu struck down 250,000 na­tion­wide, the worst sea­son in a decade. More than a fifth were aged over 65.

Health au­thor­i­ties are now urg­ing peo­ple to get the in­fluenza vac­cine, with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment pro­vid­ing 4.5 mil­lion free shots to those most at risk, in­clud­ing the el­derly and those with chronic con­di­tions.

There were 1100 flu-re­lated deaths across the coun­try last year, 90 per cent of whom were aged over 65 in­clud­ing 10 res­i­dents of one aged-care home in Wan­garatta.

Fed­eral Health Min­is­ter Greg Hunt said two Aus­tralian-first vac­cines would be made avail­able this year to the over-65s to pro­vide longer­last­ing tar­geted pro­tec­tion from deadly strains.

Pro­fes­sor Robert Booy, head of clin­i­cal re­search at the Na­tional Cen­tre for Im­mu­ni­sa­tion Re­search, said while this flu sea­son was pre­dicted to be less se­vere, it was vi­tal that healthy adults were vac­ci­nated to boost herd im­mu­nity.

“If we can get enough peo­ple who are healthy, be that chil­dren or adults, they will be­come stops to the trans­mis­sion of the virus, and there­fore pro­tect the vul­ner­a­ble,” he said.

A new sur­vey of 15,000 adults con­ducted for the Im­mu­ni­sa­tion Coali­tion, an in­de­pen­dent net­work of im­mu­nol­o­gists and GPs, found just over half of adults do not in­tend to have a flu shot.

Men in their 50s and 60s are most likely to be­lieve the flu shot doesn’t work, while just a quar­ter of adults say they get the jab ev­ery year.

Chief Med­i­cal Of­fi­cer Pro­fes­sor Bren­dan Mur­phy urged peo­ple to get vac­ci­nated from mid-April to en­sure they were pro­tected be­fore the peak flu sea­son, June to Septem­ber.

“Get­ting vac­ci­nated is not only safe, but is it is the most ef­fec­tive way of pro­tect­ing your­self,” Prof Mur­phy said.

“All in­fluenza vac­cines avail­able in Aus­tralia have been through strin­gent safety test­ing by the Ther­a­peu­tic Goods Ad­min­is­tra­tion and con­tinue to be mon­i­tored on an on­go­ing ba­sis.

“The flu jab does not con­tain any live virus, so you can­not get the flu from the vac­cine and we know that high vac­ci­na­tion rates con­trib­ute to a healthy com­mu­nity.”

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