NPS Thursday 12 April 2012, 3:17PM
Further to advice issued by the RACGP and the Chief Medical
Officer, NPS is encouraging health professionals to offer their
patients influenza vaccination, especially for those at risk, but
to be aware that the choice of influenza vaccine is important,
especially for children.
NPS Head of Programs, Ms Karen Kaye, says that as the influenza
season approaches, it is important for health professionals to
advise patients that even healthy people can get severe influenza
and vaccination is the single best way to protect against the
"In Australia there are on average 85 deaths and over 4,000
hospitalisations recorded due to influenza illness each year," says
"Health professionals should let their patients know that despite
there being no new strains of influenza identified in 2012, people
who were vaccinated in 2011 still need to be vaccinated this year
to ensure continuing protection.
"This advice is valid for everyone, but especially for those at
risk of complications of influenza, including those with
pre-existing medical conditions, such as chronic lung and heart
disease, the elderly and pregnant women.
"Previous concerns about influenza vaccination side effects have
been fully investigated and the recommendations for the 2012
influenza season have taken these into account. Selecting the
appropriate vaccine will ensure patient confidence."
Data collected during the 2010 influenza season showed that the
Fluvax vaccine was associated with febrile reactions in up to 1 in
100 children under the age of 5 years. The new recommendations are
that Fluvax must not be administered to children under the age of 5
and should only be used in children between 5 and 10 if one of the
other alternative vaccines is not readily available. The other
recommended vaccines (Agrippal, Fluarix, Influvac and Vaxigrip) may
be used in anyone over 6 months of age.
For people eligible to receive free vaccination under the National
Immunisation Program, Fluarix and Vaxigrip are available for those
over 6 months of age and Fluvax for those over the age of 10.
NPS has prepared information for health professionals seeking more
information about influenza vaccination.
The NPS information explains that while there have been some
reports of safety concerns in the media, on the whole the benefits
of having an influenza vaccine outweigh the risks for the majority
"We encourage health professionals to advise patients receiving
influenza vaccines that some may experience mild reactions, such as
redness and swelling at the injection site, but if they are worried
they should contact their doctor," says Ms Kaye.
A report published in February 2012 by the Australian Technical
Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) and the TGA on the safety in
adolescents (over 10 years old) and adults of seasonal influenza
vaccines found that the risk for adverse events from an injection
with Fluvax was likely to be modestly higher than with either
Vaxigrip or Influvac - the main adverse event being a reaction at
the site of the injection.
However, the report emphasised that the absolute rate of adverse
events following injection in adolescents and adults with Fluvax
was within an acceptable range, and concluded that the risk-benefit
profile for Fluvax justified its continued use in all adults over
65 years and those over the age of 10 who are at risk of
contracting influenza (due to other concurrent diseases or
conditions which may predispose to infection).
Health professionals can read more about flu vaccines for the 2012
influenza season and access resources about immunisations at
NPS also offers unbiased, evidence-based information for patients
about vaccines at