Dr Dale Garred, our new female GP at Manly Village Medical tells you everything you need to know about this year’s Flu Vaccine including information about the new free immunisation program for children.
What is ‘The Flu’
The Flu (or Influenza) is an illness caused by infection of the body’s cells with type of virus. The viruses that cause Influenza are classified as Influenza Virus Type A, B or C, and each of these ‘types’ have different strains (or subtypes).
The Flu can cause fevers (Temperature >38.0°c), cough, sore throat, tiredness and muscle aches. In severe cases it may also cause breathing difficulty or pneumonia.
The Flu is spread by viral cells hidden in tiny droplets from a sick person’s cough or sneeze. It is more prevalent when large numbers of people gather together e.g. childcare centres, aged care facilities and workplaces.
Can you get ‘The Flu’ from the Influenza Vaccine?
The flu vaccine is an inactivated vaccine (i.e. there is no live virus in the flu shot).
Some of the reasons why people think that you can become unwell from the flu shot are:
- The Flu Vaccine takes 2 weeks to be fully effective and so there is a chance you could strike misfortune and catch ‘The Flu’ in the 2 week period before the vaccine is effective in your body.
- It is also impossible to know whether you are incubating an illness at the time you get the Flu Vaccine. Viruses can replicate in your body cells for 2-4 days before you even develop symptoms. Of course, when you develop symptoms soon after your flu shot, it might seem logical to blame your symptoms on the vaccine, when in fact – you would have developed the illness anyway.
- The Flu Vaccine may cause you to experience mild side effects, which some might mistake for ‘The Flu’. These side effects though are usually very mild, and simply are a sign that the body is responding to the vaccine and producing protection against the real thing which is much more severe.
What does the Influenza Vaccine protect against?
In 2018, the Influenza Vaccine will protect against
- 2 subtypes of Influenza A
- 2 subtypes of Influenza B.
It is these subtypes which most commonly cause Influenza.
“If there was a vaccine that protected us against 4 types of cancer, wouldn’t we all rush out and get it?”
What if I had the Flu Vaccine in 2017?
Protection gained from the Flu Vaccine wanes over time – usually lasting only 4-6 months (just enough time to keep us well through winter). For this reason, it is important to get the Flu Vaccine every year.
In addition to this, the strains of the flu virus in the vaccines are reviewed each year. The Vaccine may be adjusted slightly according to new prevalent strains or slight strain variations which might occur each season due to slight viral mutations.
What doesn’t the Influenza Vaccine protect against?
The Flu vaccine is 60% effective. There therefore is still a possibility that you could get ‘The Flu’ through winter, despite having had the vaccine, but you are certainly far less likely to fall ill than your friends who elect not to get vaccinated.
It is also important to remember that the Flu Vaccine helps to protect you against 4 different strains of the Influenza virus. There is unfortunately a chance though that you could become ill with another virus strain that is not covered in the Flu Vaccine.
For this reason, it is imperative that even if you get the Flu Vaccine, you must still
- practice good hand hygiene
- avoid sharing crockery or eating utensils
- clean commonly touched surfaces frequently
- and avoid close contact with sick people
Who should get a Flu Shot?
People of all ages are susceptible to Influenza and so everyone is encouraged to get the flu vaccine.
It is particularly recommended for groups at greater risk of serious complications from the flu.
For these higher risk groups, seasonal influenza vaccination is provided free of charge through the National Immunisation Program (NIP). In 2018 these groups are:
- Infants and children between 6 months and 5 years of age
- Women who are pregnant or breast feeding
- Adults > 65 years of age
- ATSI people aged < 5 and > 15 years of age
- Individuals with certain chronic medical conditions:-
Cardiac disease – Heart Failure, Coronary Heart Disease
Chronic respiratory conditions – severe asthma (requiring frequent hospitalisation), Cystic Fibrosis, Bronchiectasis, COPD, Chronic emphysema
Chronic neurologic disease – Multiple Sclerosis, seizure disorders, spinal cord injuries, Neuromuscular disorders
Immunocompromised – cancers, chronic steroid use, HIV
Chronic renal failure
When should I get the Flu Vaccine?
The Flu Vaccine is now available for both those eligible for the free vaccine, and for those wanting protection who don’t meet the ‘free vaccine’ criteria.
Please phone us to book into our Flu Clinics. This is a bulk billed appointment. The only fee will be for those purchasing the Private Vaccine ($13.65 + GST).