Flu season vaccination – more help than harm
As we head towards winter again in the southern hemisphere, many of us will be wondering if a flu vaccination is worth the effort and risk.
Although a vaccination reduces the chance you’ll catch the flu, there is more to the story. Vaccination, which contains an inactive form of the virus, may prevent you catching the flu, however it doesn’t last too long, and may not provide complete protection.
Influenza virus is easily spread from person to person, by inhalation or by touching contaminated objects and then your nose or mouth.
Generally, most healthy people should consider vaccination, as a little initial discomfort may avoid days of misery and potentially time away from the activities or work they enjoy. You’ll start producing the antibodies that provide protection around two weeks after vaccination, however this can vary from person to person.
As we have seen after recent outbreaks across the world, the concern over influenza is significant, with implications for the well-being of healthy people and for the lives of the vulnerable.
The vaccinations for the 2017 winter flu season help protect against three recognized types of flu strain, and a new variant known as A (H1N1) which is a Swine flu variation.
Immunisation protects people against harmful infections before they come into contact with them in the community.
The Australian Department of Health and others suggest that being vaccinated lowers the risk of catching influenza, and helps avoid passing the flu on to those more vulnerable. For these people – children, the sick and the elderly, avoiding the flu can mean the difference between having a chronic illness, and having to be hospitalised with a much worse complication such as pneumonia, for example.
Knowing when to be vaccinated is a significant factor in prevention – avoiding getting vaccinated too early or too late is the key. Too early and you may not be covered at peak flu season, as the benefits of the vaccination will pass, too late and you risk getting the flu while unprotected.
Who should be vaccinated?
Generally, everyone can get the flu vaccination. But according to the Australian Medical Association and the Department of Health, those at serious health risk, or the vulnerable, are encouraged to do so.
Those included in the recommendations are:
- all people aged 65 years and over
- all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 6 months to 5 years
- all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over
- pregnant women
- people aged 6 months and over with medical conditions predisposing to severe influenza, such as those with cardiac disease, chronic respiratory conditions, other chronic illnesses requiring regular medical follow up or hospitalisation in the previous year, chronic neurological conditions that impact on respiratory function, impaired immunity, children aged 6 months to 10 years on long term aspirin therapy
When should I vaccinate?
Protection from the flu virus begins after one-two weeks after vaccination. This can vary though from person to person.
Recent evidence suggests protection against influenza may start to decrease from 3 to 4 months following vaccination, so early vaccination needs to be balanced with this.
With the peak flu season in Australia being August to September, it is necessary to time your vaccination to keep your immune response at its optimum. April to June is the acknowledged time for annual flu vaccination here.
Some side effects may occur within one to two days following flu vaccination and include soreness, redness, pain and swelling at the injection site, along with drowsiness, tiredness, muscle aches and low grade fever. They are usually mild and go away within a few days, usually without any treatment.
Where can I get vaccination?
Influenza vaccinations are available from a range of locations including GP offices, vaccination clinics, hospitals and health centres.
If you’re not eligible for a free flu shot, you can still get the flu vaccine with a non-PBS or private prescription which is not subsidised by the Government. So talk with your GP if you’d like to be vaccinated.
People with flu should stay home away from crowded public places and should follow the cough/cold etiquette to prevent the transmission of the virus. Frequent handwashing with soap, intake of fluids, and other supportive measures will help.
The Australian Department of Health have a website with comprehensive immunization information, available at http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/
For older Australians, you can visit:
For further information regarding vaccination visit http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/immunisation/Pages/seasonal_flu_vaccination.aspx