March 12, 2015

Dodge the winter ‘cold’ with a ‘flu jab

Lung Foundation Australia dismissed anti-vaccination lobby concerns about this year’s ‘flu vaccination and encouraged people to ‘have the jab’ as soon as it was available.

Lung Foundation Australia CEO Heather Allan said in 2011-12 more than 4,000 people were hospitalised because of influenza, resulting in more than 15,000 patient days spent in hospitali.

“With winter coming, it’s important we recognise the ‘flu is serious. We’re not just talking about a head cold or a sniffle,” Mrs Allan said.

“This isn’t something that only affects children and the elderly,” she said.

“Almost a quarter of people hospitalised with the ‘flu in 2011-12 were between 35 to 64i.

“Globally, the mortality rate from the ‘flu is up-to 10%, highlighting how lucky Australians are to have such a wide-spread and effective vaccination program.”

Mrs Allan said it was especially important for those with a chronic lung disease to have their ‘flu jab when it becomes available on April 20.

“We want to tackle ill-informed, ignorant claims from the anti-vaccination movement and encourage people to have their annual ‘flu jab, especially those in higher risk groups,” Mrs Allan said.

“Claims that the vaccine gives you the ‘flu are absolute nonsense. It’s impossible to get influenza from the vaccine as it doesn’t use live strains of the virusii,iii,” she said.

“The vaccine only uses the part of the virus that will protect you from the disease, combining strains that have already been killed and broken aparti.

“As the vaccine is given at a time when other flu-like illnesses circulate within the community, people may experience symptoms at this time due to another infection. This doesn’t mean the vaccine has given them the ‘flu.

“Like any vaccine, you can get minor side-effects but it’s not going to give you the ‘flu i,iv,” she said.

“Vaccination, together with a healthy lifestyle and diet, not smoking and exercise, will help toward minimising the risk of catching the ‘flu.

Unlike other infectious diseases, the ‘flu virus changes with different strands occurring each year which is why people need to have the vaccination annually.

Background:

  • Most people have little or no reaction to the vaccine injection. Some might have a swollen red tender area where the vaccine was givenv.
  • Occasionally slight fever and chills, or even worsening of chest symptoms may occur in those who already have chest disease.
  • These symptoms rarely last longer than one or two days.
  • Because the vaccine is produced in eggs, people who are allergic to eggs should not receive the vaccine unless it is absolutely necessary.
  • The following groups are eligible for free seasonal influenza vaccinevi:
    • all people aged 65 years and over
    • all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged six months to less than 5 years (new)
    • all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over
    • all pregnant women
    • people aged 6 months and over with medical conditions predisposing to severe influenza (see the Australian Immunisation Handbook, 10th edition, pp.252-254)

[i] Lung Disease in Australia, 2014, Woolcock Institute of Medical Research

[ii] Influenza Fact Sheet, http://lungfoundation.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Influenza1.pdf

[iii] Immunise Australia, http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/health-prof#AEFI

[iv] Immunise Australia, http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/health-prof#AEFI

[v] Immunise Australia, http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/health-prof#AEFI

[vi] SEASONAL INFLUENZA VACCINATION 2015 Information Advice, NSW Health, H15/11241