STOP THE SPREAD: The more people who are vaccinated, the less the chance of the flu spreading.
STOP THE SPREAD: The more people who are vaccinated, the less the chance of the flu spreading. Trevor Veale

It's never too late to vaccinate

THE flu tends to strike from late July and into August, so if you haven't had a flu shot yet, it's best you head to your GP and get it done.

For anyone aged 65 and over, the vaccination is free.

Professor Kristine Macartney from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance says seniors should ask for either the FluAd or the FluZone high-dose enhanced vaccines. "They are both designed to give a stronger immune response and they do it slightly differently," Professor Macartney said.

With the standard dose "four-in-one" vaccine, or one of the two enhanced vaccines in your system, you reduce your risk of the flu by about 50 per cent. And, the more people who are vaccinated, the less chance of the flu spreading.

"If you already had the four-in-one standard dose vaccine, that should be good protection," Professor Macartney said. It's not recommended to receive both the standard dose and an enhanced dose in the one flu season.

Other tips from Professor Macartney are -

  • It takes a few weeks for the immune response to kick in.
  • The vaccination has its best effect in the first three to four months after the injection. It then wanes after that.
  • We should have the influenza vaccination every day.
  • The best time to have the injection is in April or May, depending on when it becomes available.
  • It doesn't matter what age you are, you should get vaccinated every year.

"Flu vaccines don't prevent all flu in everyone," Professor Macartney said. "They're not 100 per cent protective. They reduce the risk of getting flu by about half."

It's well-known that flu is a nasty illness. "It can lead to terrible consequences, particularly in older people who can go on to have such things as pneumonia, secondary bacterial infections," Professor Macartney said. "It's even been associated with an increased chance of heart attack and other cardio-vascular problems in the weeks following the flu. It can tip people into a very frail state. They can go from living quite independently to then perhaps needing to be in nursing home after a bout of flu."

Professor Macartney says while the vaccines are generally safe, the enhanced vaccines may cause a small amount of pain and redness at the injection site. "They have been used overseas for a number of years and we don't have any safety concerns," Professor Macartney said. She is encouraging anyone who experiences side effects to register the details with to aid data collection.

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