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Flu vaccine not available until April 2017

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The Federal Government has announced that the quadrivalent influenza vaccine stocks won’t hit GPs until mid-April this year.

According to a Health department spokeswoman, “The vaccine companies are finding it harder each year, with some many strain changes, to produce enough vaccine for mass distribution before April.“

Although flu vaccines are being administered in some chemists from mid March, there is an advantage to a slightly later vaccination date.

According to Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) advice, “Recent evidence suggests protection against influenza may start to decrease from 3 to 4 months following vaccination and early vaccination needs to be balanced with this.”

The peak month for influenza in Australia is August and it’s estimated to be responsible for more than 5000 hospitalisations and almost 170 deaths each year.

Related: MJA – Influenza vaccine effectiveness in general practice and in hospital patients in Victoria, 2011–2013

The strains covered in this year’s vaccination are:

  • A (H1N1): an A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1)pdm09* like virus
  • A (H3N2): an A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2) like virus
  • B: a B/Brisbane/60/2008 like virus
  • B: a B/Phuket/3073/2013 like virus

Typically, people most commonly affected are young children and older adults with pregnant women particularly high risk of becoming seriously ill.

The immunisation vaccine is funded under the National Immunisation Program for certain at risk groups. They are:

  • Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children between 6 months and 5 years and 15 years and over,
  • Anyone 65 years and over,
  • Anyone 6 months and over who have certain medical conditions including severe asthma, lung or heart disease, low immunity or diabetes,
  • Pregnant women.

For more information, visit the: Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) advice for immunisation providers regarding the administration of seasonal influenza vaccines in 2017 and the updated Australian Immunisation Handbook 10th edition.

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