The federal government says it is providing two new “enhanced” flu vaccines for free to people over 65 after last year’s “horrific” flu season.
Last year there were more than 1000 flu-related deaths – 90 per cent of those were people aged over 65.
There was criticism of the vaccines used last flu season.
The Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, believes the new “enhanced” vaccines will be more effective.
“We are pretty confident this will be better protection,” he said.
“No flu vaccine is complete protection, the standard vaccine seems to protect well in younger people, but we are confident this will give better protection for the elderly.”
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt also thinks they’ll work better and protect those over 65.
The vaccines, available from April, are specifically targeted at the strains, in particular the mutation, that were prevalent last year.
“Last year we had the best in the world, but these new vaccines weren’t available,” he said.
“The medical advice, both from the vaccine producers, the World Health Organisation and the Chief Medical Officer is that the mutation which occurred last year in many countries will be specifically addressed by these new vaccines.”
New vaccines generate strong immune response
From April, both vaccines, Fluad and Fluzone High Dose, will be available through the National Immunisation Program following a recommendation from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee.
These new trivalent vaccines work in over 65s by generating a strong immune response and are more effective for this age group in protecting against influenza.
Fluad contains an adjuvant, which triggers the stronger immune response, and Fluzone contains four times the active ingredient, which also triggers a stronger immune response.
Professor Murphy is continuing to investigate ways to improve protection from seasonal influenza, particularly for the elderly.
This includes mandating a requirement for residential aged care providers to provide a seasonal influenza vaccination program to all staff.
Additionally, the Aged Care Quality Agency is continuing a review of the infection control practices of aged care services across the country.
The outcomes will inform new guidelines around the areas of the greatest risk to the safety, health and wellbeing of care recipients.