Influenza vaccines are now available, and I encourage everyone to get their shot, particularly in the current climate. Influenza is very contagious, with the peak number of cases in Australia usually occurring between July to September (see the graph below). Influenza can be particularly serious for babies, pregnant women, the elderly and those with chronic diseases. To date Australia has already had almost 20,000 laboratory confirmed cases of influenza (and this figure is likely to be an under-estimate).
As health professionals we are worried about this year’s flu season in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. We do not wish to see two peaks of what are very contagious viruses that have the ability to cause severe infections in vulnerable individuals – our health services will not be able to cope. We at least have a vaccine for influenza.
Is the influenza vaccine safe in egg allergic individuals?
Yes. Although the vaccine has a very small amount of egg protein in it, there is no increased risk of allergic reactions to the vaccine in those with an egg allergy (even those with prior egg anaphylaxis; see this https://www.aafp.org/afp/recommendations/viewRecommendation.htm?recommendationId=201).
The influenza vaccines have < 1 microgram of egg, whilst it is estimated that the vast majority of egg allergic individuals need to eat at least 130 micrograms of egg to trigger an an allergic reaction.
Are any special precautions required in those with an egg allergy?
The influenza vaccine can safely be administered in community vaccination clinics, general practitioner offices or immunisation clinics, as a single dose followed by the recommended 15 minute observation period. Children 6 months to < 9 years who have not had the influenza vaccine before will require 2 doses, at least 4 weeks apart.
Is the influenza vaccine free for some individuals?
The vaccine is funded by the National Immunisation Programme for certain groups, such as
- Children aged 6-months to < 5-years
- People aged ≥ 6-months of age with certain medical conditions (severe asthma, chronic lung conditions, diseases of the nervous system which affect your breathing, impaired immunity, diabetes, kidney disease, haemoglobinopathies, children aged six months to 10 years on long-term aspirin therapy)
- All adults ≥ 65-years of age
- Pregnant women (immunisation can be performed at any stage during pregnancy)
- All Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people ≥ 6-months of age
Even if you do not meet these specific criteria, we are still encouraging children (6 months+) and adults to getting the vaccine through private purchase.
Can the influenza vaccine be safely administered at the same time as other vaccinations?
Yes it can.
Please stay safe everyone, and go and get your flu shot .