As so many of us remember all too well, 2017 was the year the flu went, for want of a better word, viral. It was one of the worst outbreaks of influenza in Australia since 2009, with more than 170,000 Australians falling victim to what was even dubbed “the Aussie flu” last winter.
But what many of us miss in the bustle and chaos of everyday life is the partially avoidable nature of the flu. After all, at the beginning of the season, there are many, many, many opportunities for us to get the flu vaccine. In fact, TerryWhite Chemmart has more than three million available appointments throughout Australia for anyone over the age of 18 to arm ourselves with the stuff that could save us from falling ill this winter.
So, as the season approaches, we enlisted the help of Krystel Tresillian, clinical services pharmacist at TerryWhite Chemmart, to answer all our questions about the flu shot this year.
What are the benefits of a flu shot?
Tresillian tells Mamamia it’s important we recognise the flu to be a “very serious illness”.
“Unfortunately, the flu is a very serious illness, highlighted by the terrible 2017 flu season,” she says. “A person’s best protection is still a flu vaccination and the strains can change each year which is why it’s important to get vaccinated every year.”
What’s different about the shot this year?
This year, Health Minister Greg Hunt announced the Federal Government would fund two new flu vaccines as a means of better protecting the elderly.
The Department of Health announced the addition of two new high-dose vaccines for over-65s to the National Immunisation Program (NIP). Tresillian says the NIP provides free vaccinations for specific at-risk groups.
“The new vaccines are trivalent vaccine types, but they have changes made to the formulation to mean they are more effective in providing protection in the over-65 age group, who are at particular risk of complications from the flu,” Tresillian tells us.
“These vaccines will be available from April 2018 from the GP and in Victoria, participating pharmacists can also provide vaccinations under the NIP.
“There’s no evidence that they provide additional protection for under 65s, so for under 65s the recommendation is to receive the standard quadrivalent vaccinations available from their GPs or pharmacist.”
Who is most vulnerable to the flu?
The flu itself doesn't discriminate, though age and pre-existing health conditions mean some are more vulnerable than others.