Vaccine protection against flu may not last the season with this winter already shaping up to be one of the worst on record, health experts have warned.
Doctors say the vaccine doesn’t have a long-term immunity against the severity of the newest strains following much earlier start to this year’s flu season.
Winter has only just begun but 162 Australians have already died from the flu so far in 2019, according to the federal health department.
The figure is four times compared to the same time last year and is already well above the 102 lives claimed by the killer virus in 2018.
Australian Medical Association Council of General Practice chair Dr Richard Kidd warned those who got the jab prior to winter may not be protected for the full season.
‘The peak immunity is about a month after you get the shot, and by three months after the shot it is waning a bit,’ he told Melbourne radio station 3AW on Monday.
‘It’s possible that vaccine will still stand you in good course for the whole of that season, but it’s something that still needs more research.’
‘Even during the season we have new strains emerge and the flu vaccine may or may not protect you against those.’
Dr Kidd fears Australia’s 2019 flu season could be a bad one.
‘We’ve realised the flu vaccine doesn’t give long-term immunity so the timing of the flu vaccination is really important,’ the Brisbane-based GP told The Australian.
‘Maybe if everyone gets their vaccines now, we’ll have that herd immunity and we might stop a really bad spike happening in August and September.’
Dr Richard Kidd recently told Daily Mail Australia about his grave concerns for this year’s death toll after an early start to the flu season.
Almost 75,000 cases had been reported to the national notifiable diseases surveillance system as of June 6.
‘We could well see 4,000 Australians die from influenza or complications this year,’ Dr Kidd recently told Daily Mail Australia.
‘I know there have been higher than previous rates of admission to hospital and intensive care units. I think across the country, the figures will probably get worse.’
International flu expert and head of research at the National Centre of Immunisation Research Professor Robert Booy remain uncertain this year will top the horror 2017 season epidemic which claimed 1,255 Australians.
‘It’s shaping up to be a moderately severe flu season,’ Professor Booy recently told Daily Mail Australia.
‘Last year was a quiet season and as a result, not many people have experienced the latest flu strain. Time will tell but there is a long way to go to top the monster epidemic of 2017.’
Of the 49 flu deaths in NSW so far this year, 14 were in aged care homes.
Anyone regularly visits loved ones in an aged care facility should get vaccinated and to stay away if they’re sick.
‘People in aged care homes are highly vulnerable to flu which is why it’s so important to be vaccinated against it, if you are visiting loved ones regularly,’ Dr Sheppeard said in a statement last week.
‘Most of those who have died from flu-related complications this year have been elderly but all of us are at risk unless we protect ourselves and those we care about.
‘Our hospitals have seen an unprecedented number of flu cases this year, as has the rest of the country, so please, roll up your sleeve and go and get your flu jab now.’