Questions and Answers for Influenza (flu) Vaccination 2013
Information on Influenza and Influenza Vaccination.
- What is influenza?
- 4 things you might not know about the flu shot!
- Can I receive free flu vaccine under the National Immunisation Program?
- I received a flu shot last year, do I still need to get one this year?
- My child has a medical condition. Should they get the flu vaccine?
- Is it safe for my child to be vaccinated for flu?
- Are there any side effects with the flu vaccine?
- I heard there were problems with the flu vaccine for children in 2010?
- Is it safe for me to get the flu shot if I am pregnant?
- Is it safe for me, as an adult, to get the flu shot?
- What are the possible side effects from the flu shot?
- If I get a side effect after I have a flu vaccine, where can I report it?
What is influenza?Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is caused by a virus and mainly spreads from person to person through the air by coughing, sneezing or talking, and by touching a person’s hands, surface or object.
The flu virus infects your respiratory system such as the nose, throat and sometimes your lungs. It differs from a cold as symptoms such as fever, sore throat and muscle aches develop suddenly and last about a week. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can cause complications such as pneumonia and bronchitis which require hospitalisation. Sometimes these complications can lead to death.
Flu can also make some underlying medical conditions worse. There is a need to get vaccinated every year because the viruses circulating in the community continually change and immunity from the vaccine does not last a long time. It is especially important that people at risk be vaccinated each year.
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1. There is no live virus in the flu shot.
2. The composition of the vaccine changes every year.
3. The flu shot is safe for pregnant women at all stages of their pregnancy.
4. CSL Fluvax® is not recommended for children under 5 years of age.
Can I receive free flu vaccine under the National Immunisation Program?The flu vaccine is recommended for anyone from 6 months of age who wishes to be protected against influenza. Free flu vaccine is available for the following people:
- Anyone aged 65 years and over
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from 15 years of age
- Pregnant women
- Anyone over 6 months of age with one or more of the following medical conditions:
- heart disease
- severe asthma
- chronic lung condition
- chronic illness requiring medical follow-up or hospitalisation in the past year
- diseases of the nervous system
- impaired immunity
- Children aged 6 months to 10 years who are on long-term aspirin therapy
I received a flu shot last year, do I still need to get one this year?Yes. Immunity decreases over time and flu vaccination is needed each year to ensure you continue to be protected. Vaccination is recommended in early autumn to allow time for immunity to be strengthened before the flu season starts.
The 2013 seasonal influenza vaccine is trivalent which means it can protect against three strains of the influenza virus. The 2013 trivalent vaccine differs from the 2010, 2011 and 2012 seasons as it contains two new strains.
The H1N1 pandemic influenza virus strain, A(H1N1)pdm09, remains in the vaccine. The second influenza A strain and the influenza B strain is changed from previous years. The 2013 southern hemisphere trivalent seasonal influenza vaccine includes:
- A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus, 15 µg haemagglutinin (HA) per 0.5 mL dose
- A (H3N2): an A/Victoria/361/2011 (H3N2)-like virus, 15 µg HA per 0.5 mL dose
- B/Wisconsin/1/2010-like virus, 15 µg HA per 0.5 mL dose
Even if you received a flu vaccination towards the end of the last flu season, you should still be vaccinated again before this flu season.
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My child has a medical condition. Should they get the flu vaccine?If your child has a chronic medical condition, he or she is at increased risk of severe flu or complications from flu. Flu vaccination is very important if your child has any of the medical conditions listed in the table below. Flu vaccination is provided free for children older than 6 months of age with any of these medical conditions.
Vaccination strongly recommended but not limited to children with the following clinical conditions
|Cardiac disease||Cyanotic congenital heart disease|
Congestive heart failure
Coronary artery disease
|Chronic respiratory conditions†||Severe asthma (for which frequent hospitalisation is required)|
Suppurative lung disease
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
|Chronic neurological conditions†||Hereditary and degenerative CNS diseases† (including multiple sclerosis)|
Spinal cord injuries
|Immunocompromising conditions||Immunosuppressive therapy due to disease or treatment (e.g. malignancy, transplantation, HIV and/or chronic steroid use)|
Asplenia or splenic dysfunction
|Diabetes and other metabolic disorders||Type 1 diabetes|
Type 2 diabetes
Chronic metabolic disorders
|Renal disease||Chronic renal failure|
|Long-term aspirin therapy in children aged 6 months to 10 years||These children are at increased risk of Reye syndrome following influenza infection|
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Is it safe for my child to be vaccinated for flu?Yes. Children can begin to be vaccinated against the flu from 6 months of age.
Flu vaccines are safe and have been used in children around the world and in Australia for many years. All vaccines currently available in Australia must pass stringent safety testing before being approved for use by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
Specific brands of flu vaccine are registered with the TGA for use in children - and some flu vaccines should not be used for certain age groups of children. The following table shows which flu vaccines are suitable for different age groups of children.
Children aged 6 months to 5 years must not receive Fluvax (CSL). Fluvax (CSL) has not been registered for use in this age group since late 2010 because of unacceptably high rates of adverse events, specifically fevers and febrile convulsions in children under 5 years of age who received Fluvax (CSL) in 2010. Four other influenza vaccines are recommended for use in this age group: Agrippal, Fluarix, Influvac and Vaxigrip.
Table 1. ATAGI recommendations for the use of 2013 seasonal influenza vaccine by brand and age group
|Age group||Fluvax||Agrippal||Fluarix||Influvac||Vaxigrip||Intanza |
(9 µg per strain)
|≥6 months to <5 years||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|≥5 years to <10 years*||Note 1||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|≥10 years||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Note 2|
* The age limit of less than 10 years (rather than less than 9 years as stated in Product Information statements) is to maintain consistency with the existing ATAGI age-based recommendations for influenza vaccines, which state that two vaccine doses are required in the first year of seasonal influenza vaccine administration for all children aged less than 10 years.
Note 1: The use of Agrippal, Fluarix, Influvac or Vaxigrip in children aged 5 years to less than 10 years is strongly preferred; however, Fluvax may be used when no timely alternative vaccine is available and parents are informed of the potential increased risk of fever.
Note 2: Do not use in children. The 9 µg per strain formulation of Intanza is approved for use in adults aged 18 to 59 years only.
Common side effects following flu vaccination include soreness, redness, pain and swelling at the injection site, fever and malaise. These side effects are usually mild and resolve within a few days, usually without any treatment. You should contact your doctor if your are concerned or your child has a persistent high temperature.
There may be a small increase in the risk of fever when a child receives both the flu vaccine and the pneumococcal disease vaccine (13vPCV) at the same time. These two vaccines can be given separately, with a least a three day interval between them, to reduce the likelihood of fever. If you are concerned, you should discuss this option with your doctor or immunisation provider.
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I heard there were problems with the flu vaccine for children in 2010?In 2010, increased rates of high fever and febrile convulsions were reported in children under 5 years of age after they were vaccinated with the CSL Fluvax® vaccine. CSL Fluvax® has not been registered for use in this age group since late 2010 and therefore should not be given to children under 5 years of age.
Four other influenza vaccines are recommended for use in this age group: Agrippal, Fluarix, Influvac and Vaxigrip. None of these flu vaccines has been found to be associated with febrile convulsions above the expected rate of less than 1 per 1000 doses in this age group.
See Table 1 in ‘Is it safe for my child to be vaccinated for flu?’ which shows the appropriate flu vaccines for each age group.
Is it safe for me to get the flu shot if I am pregnant?Yes. The flu vaccine can be safely given during any stage of pregnancy. Pregnant women are at increased risk of severe disease or complications from the flu. Vaccinating against flu during pregnancy can not only protect pregnant women but provide ongoing protection to a newborn baby for the first six months after birth.
Is it safe for me, as an adult, to get the flu shot?Yes. All flu vaccines currently available in Australia are safe to use in adults. All vaccines in Australia must pass stringent safety testing before being approved for use by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
Further information on the safety of vaccines is available from the Therapeutic Goods Administration website.
What are the possible side effects from the flu shot?Common side effects following seasonal flu vaccination include soreness, redness, pain and swelling at the injection site, fever, vomiting and malaise. These side effects are usually mild and resolve within a few days, usually quickly without any treatment. Generally, reactions may occur within a few hours following vaccination and may last 1 to 2 days.
Some side effects may mimic flu infection, but all flu vaccines do not contain live virus and so do not cause you to get influenza.
Side effects such as hives or anaphylaxis are rare. People with a history of an allergic reaction to egg protein may still receive flu vaccine after talking to your doctor.
If I get a side effect after I have a flu vaccine, where can I report it?Side effects or adverse events following any immunisation can be reported to the Therapeutic Goods Administration by calling the Adverse Medicine Events Line on 1300 134 237 or lodging a report online at the TGA website, via the ‘report a problem link’. You can also report adverse events to your doctor, hospital, health centre or to your state and territory health authority.
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Page last modified: 19 March, 2013