Is it too late to get the flu vaccine?





If it feels like everyone in your family or office has been struck down by the flu recently, there’s good reason.

Australians have been hit by more than 20,900 cases of influenza nationally this year — double the amount of cases than at the same time last year.

And mothers are at the frontline of this year’s epidemic, with about 25 percent more women than men aged 20 and 49 currently getting sick with influenza 1, according to the Influenza Specialist Group (ISG).

The group’s chairman, Dr Alan Hampson, told Mamamia mothers are “certainly more exposed” to the viral illness.

“They’re looking after young children (and) kids will often come home with the flu and they can spread influenza like nothing else,” Dr Hampson said. “Young mothers are also likely to try to press on and keep things going in the household while they are sick, and they’re likely to become more ill.”

He added that biology may also be to blame for the disproportionate amount of women suffering from the flu.

“There is an issue with the hormone system, female  hormones do seem to interact with the response to the infection in a way that’s more likely to make that infection bad,” he said.

It’s news that, coupled with the ISG’s finding in 2012 that 70 percent of females in Australia were not vaccinated against the flu, is cause for concern.

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“If you haven’t had the flu at this stage then you know its still potentially worthwhile,” he said. “We did see last year that there was some flu around pretty well right through summer… So I think if they haven’t been vaccinated they might well consider it.”


“Particularly for pregnant women, who are about four or five times more likely to end up in hospital if they do contract influenza,” he said.

“Physically they’re compromised, particularly in the last stages of pregnancy because breathing is restricted. But also your immune system is dampened down (during pregnancy), so you’re less likely to be able to fight off an infection.”

Given that the vaccine is free for pregnant women — as well as over-65s, people suffering from certain underlying medical conditions and Indigenous Australians 15 years or older — why is it that relatively few Australians opt for the flu shot?

Dr Hampson puts it down to fact that “there are a lot of misconceptions around there” about the viral illness.

“People still confuse the common cold with influence and they’ll often say: ‘I had the flu shot and I still got the flu three times last year’,” Dr Hampson said. “No one has the flu three times in a years, but you’ll often have the common cold several times.”

Dr Hampson also blames a common myth about the vaccine’s effects.

“On many occasions people think that vaccine can give them the flu. There’s this myth around,” he said.

“It absolutely cannot—you might get a slight reaction to it, but you don’t get the flu.”

A few take-home points about influenza and the flu vaccine:

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