Health Minister Sussan Ley is calling for all Australians to get their annual influenza shot, with a new, improved vaccine available.
Ms Ley said the influenza vaccination available under the National Immunisation Program now protected against the three most prevalent flu strains following a severe flu season in the northern hemisphere winter just gone and a record season in Australia last year.
Ms Ley said vaccination was the best defence against the flu, which contributed to over 3000 Australian deaths annually.
“The more people who are vaccinated, the less chance the illness spreads throughout the rest of the community. This is particularly true for those Australians who are ill, vulnerable, pregnant or elderly.
“The message is simple – get your flu shot before the flu gets you this winter.”
Ms Ley said the National Seasonal Influenza Immunisation Program would begin from Monday 20 April following a rare double strain change in the vaccine to ensure Australians were protected against the most likely strains this winter.
The Australian Government provides free flu vaccines for those most at risk and eligible people can get one from their local GP or health care providers.
“In 2014 there were approximately 68,000 influenza notifications, as compared to 28,312 in 2013 and 59,027 in 2009, the year of the swine flu epidemic,” Ms Ley said.
“Consistent with national and international advice, the vaccine has been significantly changed to ensure Australians receive the most appropriate protection this winter.”
Influenza activity across the country is currently variable, but there are already early indications of a severe season ahead this upcoming Australian winter with higher levels of the disease across the eastern seaboard states and South Australia.
Under the National Immunisation Program, flu vaccine is provided free to:
- People six months of age and over with medical conditions which place them at risk of serious complications of influenza;
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from six months to five years, and 15 years of age and over;
- Pregnant women; and
- People 65 years of age and over