FLU: Get ahead of the winter cold and get your annual jab this autumn.
FLU: Get ahead of the winter cold and get your annual jab this autumn. Paul McKeon

ACT NOW: Get ahead of the winter flu

THE start of autumn is the perfect time to get your annual influenza, or flu, shot so that you can remain covered, reducing the likelihood of an unhealthy and unhappy winter.

The Australian Medical Association recommends that every senior should be vaccinated every year.

In our upwardly mobile community, it argues avoiding complacency about getting the annual injection will help reduce the disease being spread.

Even if you don't get colds, getting the flu injection will ensure you don't become a carrier and pass it on to someone else who will suffer.

Flu can kill warned Dr Tony Bartone, vice president of the Australian Medical Association federal branch.

Barring any delays due to reformulations due to late appearing strains or supply constraints, early March is when the government's national immunisation program for flu starts.

"In an ideal world we would like to see it get it done in March, April or May," Dr Bartone said.

The make-up of the flu vaccination changes every year.

It is determined by the combination of various strains and is based on what was prevalent during the previous Australian winter, what was prevalent during the recent winter in the northern hemisphere, what are the identifiable new strains and if there any new strains.

From there the formulation is made and prescribed.

It's effective in combating flu if you keep your immunisation current by getting vaccinated each year.

"Even if a new strain appears during the season after the formulation has been made and prepared, what we find is keeping your immunisation for influenza current, gives you cross-immunity against any new strain that might appear," Dr Bartone said.

"It's not entirely perfect, but it does increase the ability of the body's immune system to fight that infection or prevent that infection from taking hold.

"It's really good against the strains that it covers and also against new strains that might appear."

People over 65 years are also advised to have a diphtheria-tetanus-whooping cough booster, if they have not received one in the previous 10 years.

This vaccination isn't funded under the NIP.

Where to get your injection

Flu vaccines are available from both doctor's surgeries and selected chemists.

In making the choice of where to get the flu injection, Dr Bartone recommends a person consider where they keep all their medical records.

"Immunisation is core, central, medical activity for a general practice," he said.

"A doctor is well positioned to look at the entirety of all your other vaccinations and may be opportune to be offered something else or ensure you are completely compliant.

"There are occasions where is it prudent to defer the administration.

"If you are in a doctor's surgery, you are in the best place to have an assessment made."

What does it cost?

Under the NIP, if over 65, flu injections are free from your local doctor's surgery.

You may however be charged an appointment fee.

If you are under 65 and suffer from a chronic illness that is listed under the National Immunisation Program, you will also qualify for free immunisation.

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