The influenza vaccine for 2017 will be made available to GPs from mid-April, the Health Department has confirmed.
Although chemists in all states and territories have been offering the 2017 quadrivalent vaccine since mid-March, the timing of shipments to GPs under the National Immunisation Program (NIP) is set by the department and the chief medical officer.
Professor Robert Booy, head of clinical research at the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) explained that the later supply to GPs would increase protection for elderly patients.
“Research suggests there is an increased likelihood in the at-risk age group over 65 that the immune response decreases after three or four months,” he said.
“If these patients are vaccinated in April-May, the protection should last through the peak flu period of July-August.”
After a conspicuously bad summer season in Queensland for flu, cases are already nudging 7000 so far this year, up by 1000 from the like period of 2016.
This year’s flu vaccines, which are given free to children and high-risk patients at GP clinics under the NIP program, protect against four strains of the virus with one variation from the 2016 vaccine.
“All states and territories are progressively receiving NIP supplies of vaccines for distribution to vaccination providers, including GPs and community health clinics,” a health department spokeswoman said.
“Providers will be advised to commence administration as soon as vaccine is received.
“As influenza usually occurs from June, with the peak usually falling around August, vaccinating from April allows people to develop immunity before transmission of influenza is at its highest,” the spokeswoman said.
The standard vaccine for adults is made in Australia by Seqirus, a subsidiary of CSL.
But the vaccines for young children were being sourced from GSK and Sanofi Pasteur in Europe, another factor bearing on the timing of supply, Professor Booy said.