This year the publically funded vaccine programme offers the quadrivalent flu vaccine, with protection against four strains of flu virus.

Influenza causes 1500 to 3000 deaths in Australia each year from direct viral effects or complications such as bacterial pneumonia or precipitating a heart attack, 18,000 hospitalisations and 300,000 GP consultations . 10% of workplace absences associated with illness is due to influenza. People with a chronic illness have a 40 times increased risk of death from influenza. Annual vaccination is the single most effective measure to prevent influenza.

The vaccine is formulated each year by the World Health Organisation studies because seasonal viruses change by genetic mutation and the vaccine attempts to match the circulating strains for both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. A vaccine from the previous year may not offer protection for the strains circulating this year. The 2015 Australian flu season was dominated by two lineages of Influenza B (62% of cases) Children 5-9 years, adults aged 35 - 44 years and those aged over 85 years were most affected. The effectiveness of the flu vaccine varies each year. In the United states, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reported that vaccine effectiveness for the 2015-2016 flu season was about 60%, with the vaccine being a good match for the season

Live flu vaccines are available in other countries, but only the inactivated vaccine is available in Australia. It does not contain live virus and cannot cause influenza.

It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the virus.

Several groups have free flu vaccine funding available due to the high risk they have for complications from the flu:

  • People aged over 65 years
  • Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people aged over 15 years
  • Pregnant women
  • Children aged over 6 months and under 5 years
  • Those who are immunocompromised or at risk from pneumonia
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