NEW VACCINES: Everyone encouraged to get new flu vaccine, available from April.
NEW VACCINES: Everyone encouraged to get new flu vaccine, available from April. Paul McKeon

Protecting the vulnerable: Seniors to get free flu shot

IF YOU are aged 65 and over, the newest flu vaccines, targeted at protecting vulnerable older Australians, will be available to you at no cost.

Federal health minister Greg Hunt announced over the weekend the government is providing two stronger flu vaccines through its national immunisation program - FluAd and FluZone -  from April, and in a bid to prevent another deadly outbreak.

"Along with the chief medical officer we've focused on ensuring that this year we would have the best available drugs from around the world to provide the new vaccination regime, and the two new vaccines are about giving Australians the best chance at getting through the flu season with as little impact as possible," Mr Hunt told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday.

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"We know that the over 65s are more vulnerable, but this is part of our flu vaccination program. It's an important breakthrough."

Last year more than 90 per cent of the 11000 flu deaths were people aged 65 and over, and living in nursing homes and with an immune system struggling to fight off infections. The flu was found to have mutated mid-season meaning people who had been vaccinated earlier in the year had no immunity to the new strain.

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said, "That was an unusual shift and it's being analysed very closely by the world health organisation," Mr Murphy said.

"Medical advice from the vaccine producers, the World Health Organisation and the chief medical officer is last year's mutation will be specifically addressed by these new vaccines," Mr Hunt added.

The vaccines have been fast-tracked to ensure lives are saved and that older Australians receive greater protection

The Federal Government also want to mandate that residential aged care providers make available a seasonal influenza vaccination program to staff.  "The government is striving to implement this requirement for the 2018 flu season, in consultation with the aged care sector," a health department spokeswomen said.

To reduce the risk of catching or spreading the flu, experts recommend -

  • When ill limit contact with other people.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing.
  • Throw away used tissues.
  • Avoid touching your face unless necessary.
  • Wash your hands regularly.

When getting your annual flu vaccine injection, it is advisable to ask your GP how long the vaccine will last.


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