‘Down-Under’ Prepares HIgh-Powered Flu Vaccines for Seniors

Fluad and Fluzone High Dose influenza vaccines are registered in Australia specifically for seniors 65+

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In response to the severity of the 2017/2018 influenza season in Australia, the government announced it is providing two new flu vaccines to millions of seniors in 2018.

These flu shots are free to qualifying seniors who experienced 90 percent of the flu-related deaths during 2017.

More than 4.5 million Australians who are most at risk of getting sick during this year’s flu season can now access influenza vaccines under the Federal Government’s National Immunisation Program.

This free program includes people aged 65+ years, most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and those who suffer from chronic conditions.

The Australian Government’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy led the fast-track effort to bring two new flu vaccines to Australia for the first time. 

These new vaccines – Fluad and Fluzone High Dose – were registered in Australia to specifically provide increased protection for the senior population.

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

The Government also announced that the following four influenza strains will be contained within this year’s Southern Hemisphere vaccines:

  • 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 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,” Professor 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.”

During 2017, Australia saw the highest influenza activity in Australia in almost a decade, mirroring a global trend, with more than 250,000 Australians testing positive for influenza and double the normal hospitalizations.

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An unusually deadly flu strain first emerged in Australia last year, and has since been dubbed “Aussie Flu”. Officially designated H3N2, this variant has proven resistant to the latest flu vaccine and has become the most common circulating.

The ‘Aussie Flu’, along with the ‘Japanese Flu’, are being blamed in a more than 40 percent of flu-related deaths in the USA and UK during 2017.

Dr. Jonathan Quick, chair of the Global Health Council, said the rapidly shapeshifting flu virus is “the most diabolic, hardest-to-control, and fastest-spreading potential viral killer known to humankind.”

Professor Murphy said, “Getting vaccinated from mid-April will ensure you are protected before Australia’s peak flu period, which is around June to September.”

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

Flu shots in Australia are now available at general practices and other vaccination providers. They’re also available for purchase at many pharmacies.

Influenza vaccines are age-specific, so ask your doctor about the best vaccine for you or your child’s circumstances.

The WHO’s goal is to develop a universal vaccine to replace the yearly jab, which each year is developed based on predictions. Experts identify the strains most likely to infect people a year in advance, meaning unexpected flu strains can cause chaos.

For more information visit the Immunise Australia website.