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Flu Vax Season 2015 – The Delayed Saga

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 3.41.16 PMAustralia’s flu vaccination season is experiencing a 4-6 week delay according to the ABC.

The official vaccination season will now not begin until 20 April 2015, when GPs would ordinarily be vaccinating throughout March.

The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends a number of at risk people should be vaccinated against influenza:

  • People aged 65 years and over
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years of age and over
  • Pregnant women
  • Residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • Anyone over 6 months of age with any of the following chronic illnesses: heart conditions, lung/respiratory conditions, such as asthma, diabetes (and other chronic metabolic diseases), kidney disease, impaired immunity, chronic neurological conditions including multiple sclerosis and seizure disorders, haemoglobinopathies (a range of genetically inherited disorders of red blood cell haemoglobin).

This equates to about 20% of Australia’s population! A lucrative slice of the pie it would seem.

 

Why The Delay?

Flu vaccinations in Australia originate from at least five different manufacturers* that are used in the public program.

One of these manufacturers is CSL, an Australian based company who have the ability to produce the vaccine and have it to market faster than a vaccine imported from overseas.

But CSL’s vaccine was linked with febrile seizures (seizures associated with fevers) in children in 2010.

CSL flu vaccinations can now only be used in children over nine years of age and adults.

Due to this risk the Commonwealth Government is (cautiously) waiting until adequate vaccine supplies arrive from overseas so that there is enough vaccine to cover at -risk paediatric patients.

* These are the companies that supply flu vaccinations to Australia:

  • Abbott Australasia – Influvac
  • bioCSL – Fluvax
  • GlaxoSmithKline – Fluarix
  • Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics – Agrippal
  • Sanofi-Pasteur – Vaxigrip


The Public Immunisation Program

The flu vaccines available in the public immunisation program (and also privately to date) have claimed to protect against three strains of influenza (two subtypes of flu virus strain A and one subtype of strain B).

These vaccines are known as “trivalent” vaccines.

 

The Super Vaccine

New to Australia from overseas suppliers is the quadrivalent vaccine which protects against four virus strains. This vaccine is said to protect against two A and two B subtypes and needs to be a specific request to a GP.

This extra protection will come at a price being 50 to 100 per cent more expensive than the publicly available vaccine.

As Dr Alan Hampson, chairman of the Influenza Specialist Group says “All the indications are that the current trivalent strain of vaccine covers the strains that are likely to be in Australia this winter, but you can never be totally sure. The other B type might pop up.”

Type B flu virus occasionally predominates in some areas such as southern China and other parts of Asia. So the current medical advice is  “If you’re travelling and you really want to avoid influenza, a quadrivalent vaccine may make good sense.”

 

How Necessary is the Flu Vaccination? 

Here at Emed we have already outlined potential issues with getting the flu vaccination and these should be considered by each individual prior to seeing the local GP.

  • An existing disease already lowers the body’s ability to fight an infection; having a flu vaccination will increase  susceptibility to pneumonia and other contagious diseases.
  • The immune system weakens as we get older, thus lowering the ability to fight off infections. Introducing the flu virus into the bodies of our elderly could have dangerous consequences.
  • There is a lack of evidence that young children even benefit from flu vaccinations.
  • Flu vaccines offer no guarantee of protection due to the wide variety of viral flu strains and mutations.
  • Considering that only a small percentage of people are actually tested to find out what kind of flu they contracted, it is impossible to know just how many different serotypes of Influenza there are.
  • Influenza viruses are always adapting and may change form by the time you are exposed.
  • Even if you are fortunate enough to receive a vaccine for the proper strain of virus, it will be useless if your body hasn’t produced a full response (which takes two weeks) or if there is too much time (over three months) between vaccine and viral exposure.
  • If flu vaccinations worked as well as the vaccine industry claims, then only one vaccination should ever be needed. Human antibodies normally last a lifetime. But that would be bad for vaccine profits.

 

Armed with this information, ask yourself do you REALLY need a flu vaccination this flu season?

 

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