Free flu vac­cines fast tracked

Yarrawonga Chronicle - - Front Page -

Two new ground-break­ing flu vac­cines are to be pro­vided to over three mil­lion Aus­tralians aged 65 years and over - free of charge.

This is a di­rect re­sponse to last year’s hor­rific flu sea­son, which had a dev­as­tat­ing im­pact around the world and aimed squarely at sav­ing lives.

More than 90 per cent of the 1100 flu re­lated deaths in 2017 were by peo­ple aged over 65 years of age.

The Turn­bull Government and the Chief Med­i­cal Officer, Pro­fes­sor Bren­dan Mur­phy have worked be­hind the scenes for many months to bring two new flu vac­cines to Aus­tralia for the first time.

The vac­cines have been fast-tracked to en­sure lives are saved and that older Aus­tralians re­ceive greater pro­tec­tion.

These new vac­cines – Fluad® and Flu­zone High Dose® – were reg­is­tered in Aus­tralia to specif­i­cally pro­vide in­creased pro­tec­tion for peo­ple aged 65 years and older.

From April 2018, both vac­cines will be avail­able through the Na­tional Im­mu­ni­sa­tion Pro­gram fol­low­ing a rec­om­men­da­tion from the Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal Ben­e­fits Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee.

These new triva­lent (three strain) vac­cines work in over 65s by gen­er­at­ing a strong im­mune re­sponse and are more ef­fec­tive for this age group in pro­tect­ing against in­fluenza.

These vac­cines have been specif­i­cally made for the el­derly, as their im­mune sys­tems re­spond less ef­fec­tively to vac­cines.

Pro­fes­sor Mur­phy is con­tin­u­ing to in­ves­ti­gate ways to im­prove pro­tec­tion from sea­sonal in­fluenza, par­tic­u­larly for the el­derly.

This in­cludes man­dat­ing a re­quire­ment for res­i­den­tial aged care providers to pro­vide a sea­sonal in­fluenza vac­ci­na­tion pro­gram to all staff.

Ad­di­tion­ally the Aged Care Qual­ity Agency is con­tin­u­ing a re­view of the in­fec­tion con- trol prac­tices of aged care ser­vices across the coun­try.

The out­comes will in­form new guide­lines around the ar­eas of the great­est risk to the safety, health and well­be­ing of care re­cip­i­ents.

“We must con­tinue to do all we can to pro­tect those Aus­tralians who are most at risk,” Pro­fes­sor Mur­phy said.

Un­der the Na­tional Im­mu­ni­sa­tion Pro­gram, those el­i­gi­ble for a free flu shot in­clude peo­ple aged 65 years and over, preg­nant women, most Abo­rig­i­nal and Tor­res Strait Is­lan­der peo­ple, and those who suf­fer from chronic con­di­tions.

Last year more than 4.5 mil­lion doses of the in­fluenza vac­cine were pro­vided at no cost to Aus­tralians who were most at risk from the flu.

“Vac­ci­na­tion saves lives and they are fun­da­men­tal to our health sys­tem,” Prof Mur­phy said.

“It can save the life of the per­son re­ceiv­ing the vac­cine, but im­por­tantly it also pro­tects those who are un­able to vac­ci­nate due to health rea­sons.

“An­nual vac­ci­na­tion is the most im­por­tant mea­sure for pre­vent­ing in­fluenza and its com­pli­ca­tions and we en­cour­age all Aus­tralians to get vac­ci­nated.

“We en­cour­age all Aus­tralians aged over six months old to get a flu vac­ci­na­tion this year be­fore the peak sea­son starts in June.”

The fol­low­ing four strains which will be con­tained within this year’s South­ern Hemi­sphere vac­cines were also re­cently an­nounced: • A(H1N1): an A/Michi­gan/45/2015(H1N1)

pdm09 like virus

• A(H3N2): an A/Sin­ga­pore/INFIMH

16-0019/2016(H3N2) like virus

• B: a B/Phuket/3073/2013 like virus

• B: a B/Bris­bane/60/2008 like virus

The com­po­si­tion of the Aus­tralian vac­cine is de­cided by the Aus­tralian In­fluenza Vac­cine Com­mit­tee in con­sul­ta­tion with the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion.

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