The 2015 National Seasonal Influenza Immunization Program has commenced, following a delay due to a change in two strains from the 2014 vaccine.
North Coast Acting Director of Public Health, Greg Bell said this double-strain change was an unusual occurrence and caused manufacturing delays.
“NSW Health is urging the public – especially pregnant women and those with chronic medical conditions – to get vaccinated against the flu,” Mr Bell said.
Influenza vaccination provides protection for about a year. People who had the seasonal influenza vaccine anytime in 2014 still need to be vaccinated in 2015 to maintain immunity against influenza. Given the 2015 influenza seasonal vaccine contains two new strains, it is especially important that those at risk be vaccinated.
“Free flu vaccine is available to people considered more vulnerable to severe influenza, including those aged 65 years and older, pregnant women, people with chronic illness as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“Parents of children older than 6 months old – who are at higher risk of severe influenza – should talk to their local GP to arrange a flu vaccination.
“Influenza vaccination during pregnancy should be considered routine as it protects both the mother and the infant.
“People who don’t get vaccinated not only place themselves at risk of the flu and developing potentially serious illness, but also put others at risk of infection.
“It takes time for the vaccine to work so now is the time to get vaccinated before the winter period when influenza is most prevalent.
“Taking preventive measures with personal hygiene, such as covering your mouth when coughing and washing your hands regularly, will also help reduce the risk of contracting the flu virus.”
Simple steps to help stay healthy this winter include:
- Cover your face with a tissue when you cough or sneeze;
- Practice good hand hygiene by washing your hands thoroughly;
- Stay home if you have the flu to avoid infecting others; and
- If you think you may have influenza and you need to see a doctor call first so the clinic can take precautions to reduce the risk to other people.
NSW Health reminds parents and families that health advice and information is available via the free Health Direct Australia service, staffed by registered nurses 24-hours a day on 1800 022 222.