Anyone at risk of serious health ­complications from the flu can now get free seasonal flu vaccine from their GP after the government recently extended the free flu vaccine ­program.

An additional 2.2 million Australians are now eligible for the free* ­vaccine, including:

  • Those with chronic health conditions, e.g.
    • Heart disease
    • Lung conditions such as severe asthma, cystic fibrosis, COPD
    • Other chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, kidney failure, neurological conditions, low immunity and cancer
  • Pregnant women
  • Indigenous people from 15 – 49 years

Free vaccine will continue to be available to all people aged 65 years and over and indigenous people aged 50 years and over.

Those who are not eligible for free vaccine can purchase it with a private script.

The seasonal flu vaccine is recommended to anyone over 6 months of age who wishes to reduce the risk of catching the infection.

What about swine flu?

The seasonal flu vaccine for 2010 gives ­protection against 3 virus strains, including pandemic influenza H1N1 2009 (swine flu). It can be safely given to those who have already been vaccinated against swine flu.

Swine flu vaccine is free* and is recommended for all Australians from 6 months of age.

Safety of the flu vaccine

In spite of what many people think, flu vaccination is safe. Some people experience soreness and redness at the injection site or a mild fever for 1-2 days. There is an extremely low risk of an allergic reaction and serious complications are rare.

Flu vaccine does not contain live virus and cannot give you the flu. It can be given safely in pregnancy. However, you should not have it if you have a severe egg allergy.

New ‘intradermal’ flu injection available

Healthy adults aged 18-59 now have the choice of the traditional intramuscular needle or the new intradermal micro-injection, which is given just beneath the surface of the skin.

It uses a tiny needle which is much shorter (1.5mm instead of 16mm) and narrower than the conventional needle. A smaller dose of flu vaccine is also ­required (0.1ml instead of 0.5ml).

The vaccine is as safe and effective as the conventional injection. Skin reactions ­­(redness, swelling, pain, itch) are common but are ­usually mild and settle within 1-3 days.

The intradermal injection can be purchased with a ­private prescription. It is not available as part of the free seasonal flu vaccine program.

* a consultation fee may be payable.

Influenza: www.fightflu.gov.au
Swine flu: www.healthemergency.gov.au

Disclaimer:

  • Please note this information was correct at time of publication.
  • For up to date information, speak to your doctor.

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