Time to think about getting yourself a flu jab

NORTH Coast Medicare Local recommends an annual seasonal flu vaccination for anyone over six months of age who wishes to reduce the likelihood of becoming ill with influenza.

Free seasonal influenza vaccine is available for the following people:

  •  Anyone aged 65 years and over
  •  All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples aged 15 years and over
  •  Pregnant women
  •  Those aged 6 months and over with medical conditions predisposing to severe influenza, namely:
  •  Cardiac disease, coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure
  •  Chronic respiratory conditions, including suppurative lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and severe asthma
  •  Other chronic illnesses requiring regular medical follow up or hospitalisation in the previous year, including diabetes, chronic metabolic diseases and kidney disease
  •  Chronic neurological conditions that impact on respiratory function, including multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, and seizure disorders
  •  Impaired immunity, including HIV, malignancy and chronic steroid use

North Coast Medicare Local's clinical advisor Dr Dan Ewald said each year the flu vaccination was loaded with antibodies of flu virus strains thought to be the most likely to hit the Australian population.

Dr Ewald said as with all vaccines, a person's immune system doesn't have maximum capacity for learning about new infections, and it does get 'overloaded' as some might fear.

An annual flu vaccine is specifically encouraged for pregnant women and those listed above.

"Often pregnant women don't realise the risk of contracting severe influenza. In pregnancy, the immune system is partly suppressed in order to allow the foetus to grow. This makes pregnant women more vulnerable to a number of infections," he said.

Likely strains

This year's flu vaccination contains antibodies for three virus strains as recommended by the World Health Organisation:

  • A (H1N1): an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1) - like strain
  • A (H3N2): an A/Victoria/361/2011 (H3N2) - like strain
  • B: a B/Wisconsin/1/2010 - like strain