The National Immunisation Programme has finally commenced for 2015 as forecasts continue to suggest that the influenza season will be severe ( from statistics regarding influenza infection rates and complication rates in the Northern Hemisphere). The delay in the availability of the vaccine and the new option of what some are calling a " super vaccine" has caused some confusion about how best to protect ourselves against this year's  influenza.


The vaccine stocks the Government uses for the public program was delayed due to updates to two  strains contained in the vaccine .  The strains present in the Northern Hemisphere are expected to be covered more effectively than by the vaccine used there. ( estimated as covering only 20% of the strains encountered) .


Who Should Have The Vaccine?


  • Pregnant women
  • Children
  • The elderly
  • People with certain health conditions such as heart or kidney disease or weakened immune systems
  • Anyone wishing to reduce the risk of contracting influenza this season






Who Should Not Have The Vaccine?


  • Those who have had a severe ( anaphylactic) reaction to a previous dose of the flu vaccine or any component of the vaccine, (allergic reactions are rare).
  • If you are unwell at the scheduled vaccination booking, you should discuss whether the defer your vaccination



Should You Have The Quadrivalent Vaccine?

The inactivated influenza vaccine available for many years in Australia contains antigens from two influenza A strains and one influenza B strain. The influenza B strain antigens can vary and which one is contained in the vaccine is usually predicted on the basis of the most common strain identified in the Northern Hemisphere winter.

The Quadrivalent vaccines ( QIV) are new to Australia and contain the same strains as the Trivalent Inactivated Vaccine(TIV) plus antigens from the B Strain not already included. The Quadrivalent vaccine is designed to provide increased protection against both Influenza B types.

The vaccine is available to purchase in the private market, but not available through the National Immunisation Programme.

There is a theoretical advantage provided by the additional B Strains inclusion, but no studies to show superior protection, the hypothetical advantage will be dependent on how widely the B Strain circulates this Influenza Season.

During the recent European Influenza Season , Influenza B accounted for 20.4% of all influenza viruses isolated from patients and the strain added to the QIV accounted for just 2.6% of all isolates. Isolates from patients during the U.S. Influenza Season demonstrated less than 2% involving the additional B Strain.

The available data does not suggest that the additional Influenza B strain contained in the QIV will be dominant in the Australian influenza  season. All indications are that the current TIV covers the strains most likely to be in circulation in Australia. The Type B flu virus occasionally predominates in areas such as Southern China and parts of Asia. Those traveling may benefit from the additional Type B protection available through the QIV.

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