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The Immunisation Coalition is urging people aged over 65 to wait for the two new enhanced flu vaccines funded by the Government under the NIP

Following a “horrific” flu season last year, the Government will be providing two new flu vaccines – Fluad® and Fluzone® High Dose – to over three million Australians aged 65 years and over.

“This is a direct response to last year’s horrific flu season, which had a devastating impact around the world, and aimed squarely at saving lives,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said in a statement.

“More than 90% of the 1,100 flu related deaths in 2017 were by people aged over 65 years of age.”

Meanwhile the Immunisation Coalition is urging people in the 65 and over age group to wait until the new vaccines are available before getting vaccinated for the flu, with supplies expected from April.

“Recent studies have shown that traditional flu vaccines don’t protect the elderly very well against flu and its complications, as older persons’ immune systems don’t respond as well to vaccines,” says the Immunisation Coalition.

“That is why this year people aged 65 years and older are being provided with one of two free new enhanced vaccines: A high-dose version with four times the dose and an adjuvanted version with an additional ingredient to boost its effectiveness.

“Compared to the standard flu vaccine, both vaccines have been shown to better stimulate the immune system of older people to make protective antibodies. These vaccines are only available for use in people 65 years of age or older and are not available on the private market.

“It is important to understand that all influenza vaccines available in Australia have been updated to match the circulating virus strains in the Southern Hemisphere and should give better protection than last year to most people, but they are not the vaccine of choice for people aged 65 and over.

While some pharmacies have already begun advertising for their flu vaccinations, to begin administering them in early March, the new vaccines won’t be coming out until April, says the Coalition.

“The Immunisation Coalition is concerned that some ads currently appearing in the media might be confusing, and urge older people to wait for the enhanced vaccines from their GP.”

Australia’s National Immunisation Program provides free influenza vaccines for the elderly, as well as other high-risk groups including pregnant women, those with chronic diseases and Indigenous Australians.

The Immunisation Coalition recommends for everyone older than six months to get vaccinated. 

“If you are young fit and healthy having a flu shot will not only protect yourself but people around you – babies, immune compromised people and the elderly. Vulnerable people need protection from herd immunity,” explains Professor Paul Van Buynder, Chairman of the Immunisation Coalition.

While the new vaccines are only approved for use in over 65s via the NIP and cannot be bought on the private market, the Pharmacy Guild told AJP that: “it is important to recognise that they’re not superior, they’ve simply been shown to induce a longer lasting immune response in this age group.

“It’s important to note that: a) the other influenza vaccines that are marketed for other age groups are not inferior b) that vaccines in pharmacies are not inferior or of lesser value than those offered in GP surgeries, and c) everyone over the age of six months should be vaccinated,” the Guild said.

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