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2012 Flu Vaccine now available

March 20th, 2012

Even if you had an influenza vaccine last year, to stay protected you need to have a booster. The vaccine is effective for about 12 months. Influenza vaccination is especially worthwhile if you travel on public transport, or work with the general public or in healthcare. In Australia, the vaccine is FREE for persons over 65 years of age.

The World Health Organisation recommends the strains of the influenza vaccine for the Australian 2012 influenza season contains the following three virus strains:

  • A (H1N1): an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1) – like, 15 µg HA per dose
  • A (H3N2): an A/Perth/16/2009 (H3N2) – like, 15 µg HA per dose
  • B: a B/Brisbane/60/2008 – like, 15 µg HA per dose

(The first one on that list is a 2009 ‘swine flu’ vaccine strain.)

The best time to have the flu vaccine in Australia is March/ April. Influenza is increasingly common from early May until about September each year.

The influenza vaccine is a ‘dead’ vaccine so it CANNOT give you the flu. It is merely a template that your immune system uses for target practice, so when the real and dangerous influenza virus finds its way to your body, you do not spend days in misery.

I like giving flu vaccines at this time of year, because I do not get calls from people saying “your flu needle gave me the flu“. They are wrong and the science supports this, however it is hard to convince some persons if they have a flu needle and then a few days later get a cold. Human nature is inclined to use coincidence as evidence.

Now, in March, coughs and colds are not as common as later in winter, so if given now, the vaccine is not unfairly blamed should the vaccinated person develop coincidental symptoms of a cold a few days after the vaccine.

Remember the flu vaccine takes TWO WEEKS to give effective protection.

Influenza is not a trivial illness. Approximately 2,800 Australians die every year either directly from the seasonal flu, complications due to the flu, or pneumonia. There are even studies showing the influenza vaccine decreases your risk of having a heart attack!!

If you have persons in the house who cannot be vaccinated for some reason, it is important to vaccinate everyone else to decrease the chance of the disease getting into the household. An interesting study some years ago looked at a Japanese program for vaccinating school children. They found that vaccination of Japanese children prevented about about 1 death in the general population for every 420 children vaccinated.

The vaccine costs about $20, gives a bit of a sore arm for a few days, and takes the time to go to the clinic to have the jab. This is a BARGAIN considering the benefits to your health.

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