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JA calls for tougher Flu Vax

Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (13:44): Yesterday’s meeting of the Parliamentary Friends of Medicine discussed adult vaccination and the cost of avoidable disease in adults. Despite a childhood vaccination rate over 90 per cent, the adult rate is around 50 to 70 per cent. This presents a particular risk for those Australians aged 65 and over. A special thankyou to our guest speakers: Professor Raina Maclntyre, Head of the School of Population Health at UNSW; Dr Mark Simmerman, Regional Director of Epidemiology and Medical Affairs at Sanofi Pasteur Asia Pacific; and Ms Carole Bloomer, a lung transplant recipient and pneumonia patient.

The influenza virus is especially dangerous, and a vaccine is offered free for high risk people under the National Immunisation Program. The current vaccine protects against two A strains and one B strain of flu. However, with two known B strains in circulation, the choice of which to include in the vaccine is not perfect. Over recent months, Australian businesses have seen a huge spike in sick days as the B strain not included in the vaccine has become prevalent.

A quadrivalent vaccine that includes both B strains is available through the private market but is not currently supported through the National Immunisation Program. As co-chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Medicine, I will be writing to the Minister for Health requesting her advice to ensure that Australians at high risk from influenza and its complications can receive the strongest possible defence against this disease.