Last year, the killer flu outbreak was particularly devastating in aged care. In Victoria alone, it was reported that 121 aged care residents had died from the flu. In comparison, last year there were 36 fatal Victoria cases.
Overall, more than 1100 people across Australia died from the flu last year. More than 90 per cent them were by people over the age of 65.
Because of that, the Federal Government will provide two new ground-breaking flu vaccines to over three million Australians aged 65 years and over – free of charge.
The Turnbull Government and the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, have worked behind the scenes to bring two new flu vaccines to Australia for the first time.
The vaccines have been fast-tracked to ensure lives are saved and that older Australians receive greater protection.
These new vaccines – Fluad and Fluzone High Dose – were registered in Australia to specifically provide increased protection of older people.
From April 2018, both vaccines will be available through the National Immunisation Program following a recommendation from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee.
These vaccines have been specifically made for the elderly, as their immune systems respond less effectively to vaccines.
These new trivalent (three strain) vaccines work by generating a strong immune response and are more effective for this age group in protecting against influenza.
Professor Murphy is continuing to investigate ways to improve protection from seasonal influenza, particularly for the elderly.
This includes mandating a requirement for residential aged care providers to provide a seasonal influenza vaccination program to all staff.
“We must continue to do all we can to protect those Australians who are most at risk,” says Health Minister Greg Hunt.
Under the National Immunisation Program, those eligible for a free flu shot include people aged 65 years and over, pregnant women, most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and those who suffer from chronic conditions.
“Vaccination saves lives and they are fundamental to our health system,” he said.
“It can save the life of the person receiving the vaccine, but importantly it also protects those who are unable to vaccinate due to health reasons.”
“Annual vaccination is the most important measure for preventing influenza and its complications and we encourage all Australians to get vaccinated.”
“We encourage all Australians aged over six months old to get a flu vaccination this year before the peak season starts in June.”
The composition of the Australian vaccine is decided by the Australian Influenza Vaccine Committee in consultation with the World Health Organization.
Aged & Community Services Australia welcomed the Turnbull Government’s free flu vaccinations for all Australians over 65 years for the extra protection it provides those vulnerable to infection in residential aged care.
“Last year’s ‘flu season was a reminder of the devastation the spread of infection brings for older Australians and their families,” said ACSA Chief Executive, Pat Sparrow.
“Making protection against ‘flu a priority in the older population recognises how devastating influenza can be for this part of the population where infection spread quickly and vaccination is often less effective.”
“Extending a new, stronger version of the ‘flu vaccine for free to this cohort will help support aged care providers in their efforts to safeguard residents and staff through their own immunisation programs,” said Ms. Sparrow.
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