Top doc says get vaccinated now

By Dr Brett Sutton*

With Australia’s influenza season underway, it’s time to talk about vaccinations and why they’re important for everyone, especially at-risk groups, which includes Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders.

Aboriginal children aged six months to five years are at greater risk of severe flu and its potentially life-threatening complications than non-Aboriginal children of the same ages.

And the same goes for Aboriginal people aged 15 years and over. All pregnant women, people over 65 and anyone with a weakened immune system are also more vulnerable to flu complications.

But flu vaccinations save lives. And this year in Victoria they will be free for Aboriginal peoples aged six months to five years, and 15 years and over.

The flu is not like a cold. Symptoms last on average one to two weeks but for some it takes several weeks to recover. It kills more than 3500 Australians each year and is a highly contagious viral infection, spread by contact with fluids from coughs and sneezes.

Typically, Australia’s annual flu season occurs between April and October.

For the best possible protection this year, my advice to all Victorians is to be vaccinated anytime from mid-April onwards. This should ensure they are protected by the time the disease begins to spread more widely in the community.

For people under 65 and without significant existing medical conditions, getting vaccinated at any time is perfectly okay. No one should miss an opportunity to be vaccinated if it has already been already scheduled.

The record number of flu notifications last year in Victoria alone is a timely reminder about the importance of vaccination – there were more than 48,000 cases – and tragically a number of deaths were reported.

Our message this winter is simple: ‘You never forget the flu – don’t forget your flu shot.’

When more people are vaccinated, fewer people become ill or suffer life-threatening complications from influenza.

Also, those with chronic conditions such as heart, lung or kidney disease, diabetes, chronic neurological conditions and smokers should all be immunised. All these groups were among those who were affected by flu last year.

And remember, we all have the potential to spread flu. Do what you can to avoid getting and sharing it – wash your hands thoroughly, cough into your elbow and get a shot in the arm.

If you’re really sick, stay away from work and other places where you’ll spread the flu. And don’t send ill children to school. They can sometimes be the ‘super-spreaders’ of diseases such as influenza.

Influenza vaccine will be available from general practitioners. Many of our pharmacies are also able to provide flu vaccines as well as advice about the disease.

If you’ve got the flu, visit your doctor or talk to a pharmacist.

Everyone needs to prepare for the coming flu season.

Additional information can be found on the Better Health Channel: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/flu-influenza-immunisation

Victoria’s Aboriginal Community Controlled Health (ACCHOs) organisations are involved in providing influenza immunisations. Details of ACCHOs can be found at:

http://www.vaccho.org.au/

* Dr Brett Sutton is Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer.

3 Comments on Top doc says get vaccinated now

  1. When the piglets were vaccinated they produced a wide range of antibodies to block the H1N2 virus, but these “cross-reactive” antibodies not only failed to provide protection against the second virus, H1N1, but appeared to actually help the H1N1 virus infiltrate lung tissue and cause more severe symptoms and respiratory system complications such as pneumonia and lung damage. The unvaccinated controls suffered milder pneumonia and fewer other complications. This effect is called Vaccine-Associated Enhanced Respiratory Disease.

    https://m.medicalxpress.com/news/2013-08-vaccination-flu-worse-exposed-strain.html

    The flu vaccine used this year in Australia — which has the same composition as the vaccine used in the U.S. — was only 10 percent effective, according to a preliminary estimate, at preventing the strain of the virus that predominantly circulated during the country’s flu season,an international team of medical experts wrote in a perspective published today in The New England Journal of Medicine.
    “Our observation of an association between repeated vaccination and increased viral aerosol generation demonstrated the power of our methods.”

    http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2018/01/17/1716561115

    The CDC funded study also proves that people who are vaccinated are not actually protected against influenza any more than people who are not vaccinated, and people who have received multiple flu shots in successive years have compromised immune systems as a result of the vaccinations.

    Does the flu vaccine protect you or those around you? According to the research, the opposite would be true. The findings of the study found that those individuals who had received the flu vaccine were “shedding” 6.3 times more virus than the unvaccinated every time they exhale.

  2. Published on January 18, 2018, in the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, PNAS, the study’s authors screened volunteers with confirmed cases of influenza and took breath samples. And among their findings was “an association between repeated vaccination and increased viral aerosol generation”

    In fact, subjects who had received the influenza vaccine in both the current and the previous season were found to shed over six times more aerosolized virus than those who did not get a flu shot during either season.

  3. It seems the problem is the virus grown in eggs is mutating:
    Earlier assessments had exaggerated vaccine efficacy. What’s more, efficacy was sometimes low even when the vaccine and circulating strains appeared well matched. Something else was afoot.

    Danuta Skowronski, an epidemiologist at the BC Centre for Disease Control in Vancouver, Canada, instead blames mutations in the vaccine strain itself. The most common influenza vaccine contains an “inactivated” virus, which manufacturers grow in chicken eggs. As Skowronski’s team first reported in 2014, the virus can mutate while it is growing in the eggs, resulting in a vaccine unable to block circulating strain.

    “10% to 60% protection is better than nothing,” says Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. “But it’s a terribly inadequate vaccine for a serious public health threat.” Now, researchers are striving to understand why it fails so often—and how to make a markedly better one.

    http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/09/why-flu-vaccines-so-often-fail

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