2021 Flu Vaccine
With the 2020 flu season not far away, all Australians — and especially those in vulnerable groups or age brackets — should arrange vaccination against seasonal influenza
Whilst flu vaccination does not prevent against COVID-19, a flu vaccination is critical to protecting the general health of Australians from influenza, which can take between 100 to 1,000 lives per year depending on the severity.
Expert medical advice is that everyone aged six months and over should be vaccinated against influenza this year, and every year, to protect themselves and others in the community.
The Australian Government has invested more than $80 million to provide more free vaccines under the National Immunisation Program in 2021 than ever before, including a new quadrivalent vaccine Fluad Quad® for people aged 65 years and over.
The National Immunisation Program provides free vaccines to those most at risk, including:
- pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy;
- all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months and older;
- people aged 65 years and older;
- people aged six months and older with certain medical risk factors; and
- for the first time, all children aged between six months and five years.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, there are strong national requirements for all Australians to stay home unless they are undertaking essential activities, however it is permissible to leave home for medical or other health care needs, including attending an appointment to get a flu vaccine.
- People in mandatory self-isolation due to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID -19 should remain in isolation and should not leave their home to go and get a flu vaccination.
- People who do not have COVID-19, or who are not a suspected case of COVID-19, are allowed to leave their home for a flu vaccination, but it is recommended they should only do so if they have phoned ahead, made sure their health care professional has vaccine available, and made an appointment with their healthcare professional.
This year it is even more important to be vigilant about the flu because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While there is not yet a vaccine or effective treatment for COVID-19, vaccination provides an effective defence against the flu.
Vaccinating against the flu will reduce the risk of a very dangerous double-up of flu and coronavirus—both diseases affecting the respiratory system.
Vaccinated people of all ages are less likely to get the flu and if they do, are less likely to have a severe case. Fewer cases and fewer severe cases of flu will result in less demand on our health care system.
Fortunately, most cases of COVID-19 in Australia so far have been mild, with only around 10 per cent of infected people requiring hospitalisation. This could change if people already made vulnerable by the flu also contract COVID-19.
The actions that we take to slow the spread of COVID-19 can also stop the spread of influenza and other viruses. Every one of us has a responsibility to contribute to this effort by:
- practising good hygiene
- practising social distancing
- following the Government’s directions on public gatherings and workplaces, and
- understanding how and when to self-isolate.
Influenza (Flu) Information
Should I get a flu shot?
Influenza, or the flu, is a common respiratory tract disease that affects people of all ages – even healthy people, can become very sick.
An annual flu vaccination is recommended for everybody over 6 months old.
How do I get vaccinated?
In Australia, April or May is the perfect time to get your flu shot, but you can get vaccinated at any time. Appointments are quick and at Craven’s Pharmacy, the 2019 flu shot costs just $20.00 with an appointment with the Nurse Practioner.
Fill out the contact form attached or book an appointment online today to protect yourself and your family.
The flu is caused by a group of RNA viruses. There are several different strains of the viruses, which give us influenza A, B and C, plus further variations denoted by H and N numbers (e.g. H1N1). The viruses change (mutate) regularly, which is why it is important to get vaccinated each year.
Seasonal influenza is estimated to cause approximately 100 deaths and 5100 hospitalisations in Australia each year. In addition, there have been four pandemics (large, global outbreaks) in the last 100 years. These include the ‘Spanish flu’ (which killed 3-5% of the world’s population in 1918) and ‘swine flu’ (in 2009).
Getting vaccinated for influenza each year is the best way to reduce your chances of getting the flu. It will also reduce the severity of the illness if you are unlucky enough to become unwell.
The flu is often confused with a common cold. However, whereas a cold can make you feel unwell with a sore throat, cough and runny nose for a few days, the flu is much worse. Most unvaccinated people who get the flu suffer from a mixture of symptoms, including:
- malaise (general pain and discomfort)
- myalgia (muscle pain).
In addition to the symptoms listed above, influenza in young children can also cause:
- febrile convulsions (seizures)
- otitis media (ear infection)
- gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g. nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea).
Although the flu is not life-threatening to most people, in severe cases a patient may experience multisystem complications, such as:
- bronchitis (a chest infection with mucus, coughing, chest pain and shortness of breath)
- croup (swelling of the trachea or windpipe)
- otitis media (ear infection)
- myocarditis (inflammation for the heart leading to an irregular hearth beat)
- pericarditis (swelling of the membrane around the heart, leading to heart attack-like symptoms)
- encephalitis (swelling of the brain)
- Reye syndrome (which includes vomiting, personality changes, seizures, confusion, and even death in 20-40% of cases).
Influenza can affect people of all ages. However, certain people are at a higher risk than others. These groups include:
- children aged between 6 months and 5 years old
- adults over 65 years old
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
- women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
- homeless people
- people who work in the poultry and pork industries
- people who are travelling or going on holiday.
People with chronic illnesses (e.g. diabetes, renal failure, metabolic disease) or any of the following medical conditions are also at a high risk from influenza:
- HIV, asplenia (removed or non-functioning spleen), chronic steroid use or another immunocompromising condition
- cardiac or respiratory diseases (e.g. asthma, cystic fibrosis, emphysema)
- neurological conditions (e.g. multiple sclerosis, epilepsy)
- Down syndrome
- liver disease or cirrhosis
- stem cell or organ transplant.
If you work with, care for, or live with someone who is at a higher risk of influenza it is strongly recommended that you get vaccinated. This is because you might pass on the virus to someone who could become very ill, and you are also more at risk of catching the disease yourself.
The influenza vaccine is safe at any stage during pregnancy, but it is best to receive the vaccine as early as possible in order to protect yourself and your baby.
Infection and transmission
Influenza is highly contagious and is transmitted person-to-person, for example through coughing, sneezing or touching contaminated surfaces.
Research shows that the virus can live for up to an hour in the air (e.g. after someone has sneezed) and for up to eight hours on hard surfaces such as plastic, metal or wood! The virus is usually incubated in the body for two days before the first symptoms appear and can hang around for a few days after the symptoms have gone. This means that you might be around people who have the flu, without knowing it.
You should get a new influenza vaccine each year. Most people only need one shot per year, however, some people such as children getting the vaccine for the first time, may need more than one dose.
There are different vaccines available, depending on your age. Your pharmacist will be able to tell you what vaccine is right for you and how many doses you need.
The vaccines do not contain the live virus, which means that you cannot get the flu by getting vaccinated.
Severe side effects to vaccination are rare. However, tell your pharmacist if you have any allergies or medical concerns before getting the vaccine. The flu shot may be dangerous to people who have had a bad reaction to a previous influenza vaccine, or who have a severe allergy to egg. Your pharmacist can advise you on whether the flu shot is right for you.
The influenza vaccine does not the live virus. This means that you cannot get the flu by getting vaccinated. However, you may experience some swelling, pain or redness at the injection site. This usually only lasts for one or two days and can be eased by applying an ice pack or using a pain relief such as paracetamol. Some people may have mild symptoms such as tiredness, a low fever or headache after receiving the vaccine. This is caused by the body’s immune response.
If you feel very unwell, faint, short of breath or if your symptoms do not go away, you should contact your doctor.
Preventing the flu
Getting vaccinated and practicing good hygiene are the best ways to avoid getting the flu.
- Wash your hands with soap and water regularly.
- Regularly clean all hard surfaces, such as computer keyboards, mobile devices, door handles etc.
- Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and wash your hands afterwards.
In addition, eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables of all different colours. This will make sure you get enough vitamins and minerals to keep your immune system strong.
Treating the flu
If you do become unwell, make sure that you rest, try to eat healthy food and make sure that you drink plenty of fluids to avoid getting dehydrated.
Your pharmacist can advise you on medications to help. Over-the-counter pain relief medication such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can help to reduce body aches and pains. Cold and flu medications can relieve symptoms such as a blocked nose, congestion, sore throat and cough.
If you experience severe symptoms you should contact your doctor or visit the hospital.