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Influenza remains a common cause of hospitalisation and death in Australia, and 2019 saw high disease rates in the community and an early start and unusual distribution of disease burden across the ‘season’.
Recent years have seen changes to the vaccines funded and available under the National Immunisation Program (NIP), with special vaccines for older Australians and free vaccines now on offer for more Australians than ever before.
In this seminar/webinar, Professor Kanta Subbarao, Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza, provided an update on influenza disease worldwide, challenges and future opportunities for prevention and control.
Professor Kristine Macartney, NCIRS Director, then provided an overview of the vaccines available, funded and recommended for 2020, as well as strategies for improving influenza vaccination uptake across the Australian population to reduce disease burden in the community.
Learn what you need to know about influenza vaccination in 2020.
Q&A from Influenza seminar/webinar
Here are the answers to the questions that we received in the Q&A section of the seminar/webinar. Please note the questions have been edited for clarity.
Q: Is the influenza vaccine dose for children aged 6 months to <9 years who have never been immunised still 2 doses given 1 month apart? What is the reason for the 2 doses?
A: Children aged 6 months to <9 years receiving influenza vaccine for the first time need 2 doses, at least 4 weeks apart. This maximises the immune response to the vaccine strains. Children who received 1 or more doses of influenza vaccine in a previous season only need 1 dose of influenza vaccine in the current and future seasons.
Q: If the influenza vaccine dosage is now 0.5 ml for everyone, including children (previously the dose for children was 0.25 ml), do they only need 1 dose when receiving influenza vaccine for the first time?
A: FluQuadri Junior® (0.25 ml) previously listed for use in children aged 6 months to <9 years is not listed for use in the NIP Influenza Program for 2020, therefore, all vaccine doses will be 0.5 ml. Children aged 6 months to <9 years who have never received influenza vaccine before will still require 2 doses 4 weeks apart regardless of the dosage.
Q: Can Non-Medicare card holders access the 2020 NIP influenza vaccines?
A: All vaccines listed in the NIP Schedule, including seasonal influenza vaccines, are funded vaccines provided by the Commonwealth. Eligibility for free vaccines under the NIP is linked to eligibility to access Medicare benefits (including a Medicare card). If a patient is not eligible to receive Medicare services, they cannot access the funded NIP vaccines (including seasonal influenza vaccine). These patients are required to purchase vaccines on script or purchase directly from immunisation providers who have private vaccines available that patients can purchase.
Q: Do healthcare workers located in areas (e.g. Far North Queensland) where they can experience two waves of the influenza season require or benefit from 2 doses of influenza vaccine?
A: A single annual dose of influenza vaccine is recommended for most people. Revaccination later in the same year is not routinely recommended, but may benefit some individuals because of personal circumstances and this should be considered on a case by case basis.
Q: When you record the vaccine on general practice software, do you need to still record it onto the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) website?
A: Practice software will report directly to AIR as long as it is has been configured to do so and, as such, does not need to be reported again directly onto the AIR website. Contact your software provider for further support.
Q: Do pharmacists have a guideline for timing of vaccination similar to general practices?
A: Pharmacies are encouraged to deliver influenza vaccines in line with best practice. The optimal time for influenza vaccine is before the onset of each influenza season. The period of peak influenza circulation is typically June to September in most parts of Australia.
Q: How do pharmacies record vaccinations on AIR?
A: Some software used by pharmacies is compatible with AIR and can be reported electronically. Alternatively all pharmacies are able to access the AIR website and can record directly onto the AIR website.
Professor Kanta Subbarao
Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza
Kanta Subbarao was appointed Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza in 2016. Before coming to Melbourne, she was Chief of the Emerging Respiratory Viruses Section of the Laboratory of Infectious Diseases, NIAID, National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States (the US) from 2002 to 2016 and chief of the Molecular Genetics Section of the Influenza Branch at the US CDC from 1997 to 2002. Kanta is a virologist and a physician with specialty training in paediatrics and paediatric infectious diseases. Her research is focused on newly emerging viral diseases of global importance, including pandemic influenza, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
Professor Kristine Macartney
Director of NCIRS
Kristine Macartney is a paediatrician and infectious disease specialist. She is a medical graduate of the University of NSW and has almost 20 years of experience in vaccinology. She has experience working in the USA at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where she was a founding member of the Vaccine Education Center. Her Doctorate of Medicine was on rotavirus infection, in particular the mucosal immune response to novel vaccine candidates. She is interested in all aspects of vaccine preventable disease research, particularly policy development, vaccine safety and prevention of viral diseases. She is the senior editor of the Australian Immunisation Handbook. Kristine has a clinical appointment at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead as a Staff Specialist in Infectious Diseases and Microbiology and a conjoint academic appointment as Professor in the Discipline of Child and Adolescent Health, The University of Sydney.
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We acknowledge that the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) is on the land of the traditional owners the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the First Australians, and recognise their culture, history, diversity and their deep connection to the land. Together, through research and partnership, we aim to move to a place of equity for all. NCIRS also acknowledges and pays respect to other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations from which our research, staff and community are drawn.