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November 25

Australia Upgrade their Flu Vaccination for 2016

The Australian Government’s National Immunisation Program (NIP) has been upgraded to the quadrivalent (4-strain) for 2016.

Similar to the NZ Government’s Ministry of Health program to provide free influenza vaccinations for people at higher risk of developing complications if they get influenza, the Australian Government’s National Immunisation Program (NIP) “is designed to protect those population groups most at risk” of contracting influenza.

In a press release dated 6 November 2015 (and available at: https://www.health.gov.au/internet/ministers/publishing.nsf/Content/health-mediarel-yr2015-ley133.htm, the Australian Government officially announced that they are moving to use quadrivalent (4-strain) influenza vaccine for their upcoming 2016 flu vaccination season’s NIP. This upgrade follows a record number of reported influenza cases in Australia in 2015.

Quadrivalent (4-strain) flu vaccine is designed to protect against 4 (as opposed to 3 in the trivalent flu vaccination) different flu viruses; two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses. Trivalent (3-strain) flu vaccine is designed to protect against 3 different flu viruses: two influenza A viruses and one influenza B virus. Therefore, the difference between the trivalent (3-strain) and quadrivalent (4-strain) flu vaccine is the addition of another (B strain) vaccine virus in the quadrivalent (4-strain) flu vaccine.

“Influenza B viruses are estimated to have accounted for about 62 per cent of flu cases in Australia in 2015” the 6 November press release quotes.

Flu subtyping data from the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza for NZ – from mid-November 2015 and available from: http://www.influenzacentre.org/surveillance_subtypes.htm – showed B strain influenza contributed 69% to the total number of influenza samples that were subtyped by WHO for the year to September 2015. Of these, the B/Victoria strain (which was not included in the trivalent flu vaccines for 2015) accounted for 24% of the samples analysed. Not all samples for the NZ season were analysed as the WHO data is based only on a sample number analysed at the WHO Collaborating Centre. However, WHO indicate this sample tends to be representative of the wider picture observed with samples analysed in other labs.

The good news for Onsite Health clients is that Onsite Health will once again be offering quadrivalent (4-strain) influenza vaccinations to clients in the upcoming 2016 flu vaccination season.