FLU Vaccinations @ Saltfleet Clinic
Influenza Vaccination FAQs with our Specialist Public Health Physician
Dr Bob Kass, MBBS MRCP MScMCH DCH FAFPHM
Please note our Specialist Public Health Physician is not a GP. Please DO NOT enquire about GP services.
You must be well at the time of your flu vaccination.
I've never considered a flu vaccination before, why do I need one in 2020?
Even if you have never considered a flu vaccination in the past, please consider vaccination for 2020. Influenza and COVID-19 can have very similar symptoms and getting both at the same time could make you very unwell. Aside from the personal impact on yourself, there is the personal responsibility to reduce the burden on the health system, which will be stretched to the limit by COVID-19. We must reduce as many influenza illnesses as possible this winter. We have a vaccine for influenza but NOT for COVID-19! Everyone must do their bit to reduce community morbidity this year by getting a flu vaccination.
It is also important to note that influenza is NOT a benign disease. More than 300,000 influenza cases were notified to health authorities in Australia last year. Over 13,000 people were admitted to hospital and more than 700 people died from complications of the flu. The number of notifications is just a fraction of the real number of cases.
I had a flu vaccination last year, won't that be enough?
The 2020 Influenza vaccine differs in 3 strains from the 2019 formulation and provides good protection against the commonly circulating flu viruses. The 2020 quadrivalent formulation contains the following strains:
A/Brisbane/ 02/2018 (H1N1) pdm09-like virus
A/South Australia/ 34/2019 (H3N2)-like virus
B/Washington/02/2019-like (B/Victoria lineage) virus
B/Phuket/3073/2013-like (B/Yamagata lineage) virus
Different quadrivalent vaccines will be made available in 2020. People may be confused by the various brands available but they all have the same strains of Influenza.
I've heard the flu vaccine is not 100% effective, why bother?
No vaccine is 100% effective. The flu vaccination is probably between 50% and 70% protective and it is likely to reduce severity even if not totally protective. It may prevent you from infecting someone who has a serious medical condition or is pregnant. Through flu vaccinations we aim to create high levels of immunity within the community that may reduce circulation of the virus and reduce your exposure to the risk of lost earnings, spoiling a sporting or social event or negative impacts on education (particularly year 12 students).
Does the flu vaccination give me the flu?
No, the flu vaccination does not give you a dose of flu (it is not a live vaccine). Nor does it make you more prone to flu in the future. These are myths which must be put aside for 2020!
When I get the flu vaccination can I ask about other vaccinations?
Yes, other vaccines may be indicated when attending for a flu jab. During a vaccination centre visit the individual is able to seek further information on other vaccines recommended for your age group. For example: dTpa (triple antigen), Pneumovax (pneumonia), MMR (particularly for those born between 1966 and 1980), chickenpox, shingles.
For other vaccinations please enquire.
What does the flu vaccine cost?
$20 is the most you will pay. As a service to the community in this time of need we will be bulk billing the consult fee and charging $20 for the vaccine itself which covers costs. Fee vaccine information below...
When is the flu vaccination free?
From early April 2020 we will be supplied with FREE flu vaccinations for:
All children aged 6 months to less than 5 years
All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 6 months and over
Those aged 65 years and older
Pregnant women (at any stage during pregnancy)
Those older than 6 months with medical conditions which put them at risk of serious complications due to influenza (for example: immune-suppressed, diabetics)
What if I'm over 65 years of age?
It is important to note that the government-funded vaccine for those over 65 is different to the other formulations. It is called Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccine (QIV)-Fluad Quad. The formulation contains the same strains but has an adjuvant to better stimulate an antibody response. Check the vaccine if you are over 65 and intend to have your flu vaccination through a company-sponsored program. It may NOT be the one with the adjuvant.
It is important for older Australians to have the stronger vaccine.
When is the best time to get the flu vaccination?
Optimal protection occurs within the first few months of receiving the vaccine. We try to time the administration so maximal protection occurs when there is maximal influenza activity. This can vary greatly. Last year it was early but in most years it is around July/August.
It is inevitable that we will see community transmission of COVID-19. Embarking on FLU vaccinations as soon as possible will be very important.
What can you tell me about the disease?
Influenza A and B are distinctly different viruses and B, unlike A, does not circulate in animals, only in humans. Influenza B also tends to cause milder illness, is less diverse (mutates more slowly than A) and is not normally associated with epidemics. Immunity to influenza B is usually acquired in early life.
The influenza A vaccine is classified by surface proteins Haemagglutinin (HA) and Neuraminidase (NA) eg H1N1 and H3N2. Every year WHO (World Health Organisation) provides advice on the components of the vaccine for the coming influenza season.
This advice is usually provided in September for the southern hemisphere and February for the northern hemisphere. The advice is based on sentinel monitoring of laboratory confirmed influenza cases around the world.
Recommendations are based on “best fit” strains to protect against the circulating influenza viruses noted during the previous winter in the southern hemisphere and those in the inter-season northern hemisphere period.
What can you tell me about the influenza virus?
Influenza viruses spread person to person by droplet infection and small particle aerosol. Droplets generally travel only a smaller distance (< 2 metres) while aerosol may go further.
The virus replicates in, and infects adjacent cells of, the upper respiratory tract. Local mucosal immunity develops and there is a rise in serum antibodies.
Individuals are most contagious in the first 3 days after the onset of symptoms but probably shed the virus for about 5 days. A person also can be infectious the day before they develop symptoms. Those who are immune-suppressed or who have chronic disease shed the virus for longer. The virus can remain viable for hours in dried secretions before transfer to the respiratory tract. The incubation period (time between exposure and symptom onset) is 1 to 2 days.
Many Australians die from the complications of influenza every year. Most of these are over 65 years or under 5 years of age. Many have contributing health factors which make the illness worse.
How do I assess the risk of contracting influenza?
There is a constant global influenza presence but exposure risk for the individual depends on many factors such as time of year, general activities, density of population. Infection rates are highest in children (likely non-immunes) and the rates of severe illness are highest in those over 65 years (hence the free national immunisation program for that group).
Attack rates are high in susceptible crowded populations. This can be as high as 40% in closed settings such as a childcare centre, school, retirement village or nursing home. In travel, cruise ships are such a setting.
The peak virus activity is in the winter months in temperate climates and during the dry season of the tropics and subtropics.