In recent times there has been a bit of a debate about whether or not there is a need for flu vaccinations and much of the discussion is emotive rather than factual.
Even very healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it too many other people. Influenza is a serious disease that millions of people get every season, thousands of people are hospitalized each year and hundreds of people die from flu related causes. Every season the flu virus is different and can affect people in different ways.
Influenza vaccines will cause antibodies to develop within a vaccinated person’s body about 2 weeks after they are vaccinated to give protection against infection.
Dr Michael Gannon the president of the AMA says that “It is no exaggeration to say that you’re potentially risking the like of yourself and your baby if you don’t get the vaccine” when asked about the need for vaccination among small children and pregnant women. Getting flu vaccinations every year is important as the most common strains of the influenza virus changes every year. Professor Raina MacIntyre from the University of New South Wales said that “the vaccine that you get this year won’t necessarily be a protection for you against the different virus that may be circulating next year.
The new enhanced vaccines are specifically made to target the strains of influenza that were prevalent in last year's deadly flu outbreak. Having flu vaccinations is especially important for those who are at high risk of getting the flu.
Several Australian state and territory governments, including New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and the ACT are now offering free flu jabs for children between six months and five years old.
Most local GP’s have the new flu vaccines and the government immunization services are available through all community health clinics, school based immunization programs, Aboriginal Medical Services, some local pharmacies and work places.
Professor MacIntyre also said that “The best time to get your flu jab can be difficult to predict because the peak period of flu activity can vary year by year”. “Generally though the peak flu season is around July and August but it is variable, sometimes it can start in may and sometimes it does not start until September”. It has been suggested that research has shown that the effectiveness of the flu vaccinations may begin to wane after about three to four months. Professor MacIntyre said “It’s really a trade off between getting the ideal immunity early and not missing the peak activity time”.
The Department of Health the AMA and RACGP say that the best times for getting your flu vaccinations is about the end of April to the beginning of May. RACGP President Dr Basyian Seidel said “This should really cover the vast majority of Australians”.
The President of the AMA, Dr Michael Gannon agreed as added that “Healthy people should get vaccinated at the same time as those eligible for a free flu vaccination” he added that “There is no question that the optimal time to receive the influenza vaccination is in late April and early May”.
People with cancer and those having cancer treatments are recommended to have seasonal flu vaccinations as they are particularly vulnerable to acute respiratory infections and complications such as influenza.