13th April 2015
ISG Media Alert: Short window remaining to get a flu shot this year – available April 20, 2015
At-risk groups urged to book a #flushotnow with flu on the rise
- Australia’s leading influenza expert body is urging Australians to “book a flu shot now”, with influenza cases already at significantly higher levels recorded than this time last year.
- The government-funded flu vaccine for at-risk groups will be made available by April 20, a month later than usual, due to manufacturing delays with incorporating two new strains into the vaccine.
- The Influenza Specialist Group (ISG) is warning the late start to the flu vaccination season is leaving Australians with close to six weeks to get vaccinated before winter.
According to Dr Alan Hampson, Chairman of the ISG, the most recent serious influenza cases in the Northern hemisphere were caused by the A(H3N2) virus, which emerged as the predominant, circulating strain during the five-to-six month vaccine manufacturing period. This virus type, which has historically been associated with increased severity among the elderly, has also severely impacted all age groups.
“The 2015 Southern Hemisphere free flu vaccine contains two new strains, including the H3N2 influenza strain, which has been responsible for a severe flu season and high flu hospitalisation rates in the Northern Hemisphere, and the late outbreaks of influenza B in Europe.
“All indications are that our vaccine is now a really good match for the coming Australian flu season.”
Down load full media release here.
Our Annual Free Flu Vaccination event is on again at Graduate House in Melbourne.
17 March 2015
National Seasonal Influenza Immunisation Program delayed until 20 April 2015
The Department of Health recently advised that the National Seasonal Influenza Immunisation Program for 2015 would not commence on the usual date of 15 March, but would instead commence on 20 April of this year. The main reason for the delay was the due to two strain changes from the 2014 vaccine.
However, there has been some confusion regarding the reasons for the delayed availability of influenza vaccine in Australia this year. For example, the suggestion that vaccine had been made from ‘old strains’ and in view of the less than ideal protection seen in the Northern Hemisphere winter had to be replaced and the process started again.
The formulation for the current year’s Australian vaccine was actually determined early in October 2014 and manufacture commenced shortly afterwards, prior to any shortcomings of the Northern Hemisphere vaccine becoming known.
A detailed description of the Influenza vaccine formulation process can be found here: vaccine formulation process
2 Feb 2015
ISG Annaul Scientific Meeting 2015
Our annual scientific meeting in Melbourne was an enormous success. Read more.
30 January 2015
2015 Southern Hemisphere Seasonal Influenza Vaccine to Contain Updated Strains
The Australian Government, Department of Health has announced earlier this month, that 'the National Seasonal Influenza Immunisation Program for 2015 will not commence on the usual start date of 15 March. The main reason for the delay is that 2015 southern hemisphere seasonal influenza vaccine will contain updated strains for two of the three vaccine components compared with the 2014 vaccine.
A double-strain change can present difficulties for the manufacturers and regulatory authorities and may sometimes result in manufacturing delays as has occurred this year. A decision has been made to delay the program until sufficient supplies of influenza vaccine are available. Nevertheless, the delay will not affect final vaccine supply volumes, and it is expected that vaccine will be available in adequate time for vaccination ahead of influenza outbreaks which typically do not occur before May. No vaccine shortages are anticipated. See http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/
The ISG will update the information accordingly over the next few weeks.
19 January 2015
Winner of the 2015 ISG Travel Scholarship is announced.
The ISG congratulates Ms Anita Smith on winning the 2015 ISG travel scholarship.
The scholarship is available to applicants (students with a demonstrable interest in influenza/respiratory vaccine preventable infectious diseases) studying an undergraduate or postgraduate medical degree at an Australian University.
Anita completed her bachelor of Pharmacy in NZ, followed by a Graduate Diploma in Pharmacy Practice at Monash University. She also holds a John Flynn Placement Program Scholarship, and is doing her MBBS at the University of Notre Dame in WA.
She plans to share the knowledge gained at the ASM with fellow students via a presentation at her university, and to increase awareness of the importance of influenza generally. Having worked clinically with influenza vaccinations, she would like to observe the debates on influenza issues, to get a better understanding of the bigger picture from a public health perspective. In the future, she aims to complete an internship with WHO working with their Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals department.
12 August 2014
ISG Media Alert: Flu is here: With numbers climbing, Mum’s are hit the hardest!
With more than 20,979 laboratory confirmed cases in the country, Australia is experiencing double the number of cases than at the same time last year.
17 July 2014
ISG Media Alert: Despite long-‐standing recommendations, the uptake of influenza vaccination in Australian children with high-‐risk medical conditions is low – new study.
Australian children with high risk medical conditions are not being sufficiently vaccinated against influenza. A new study has revealed that more than half (59%) of children with high risk conditions, and 86% with standard risk conditions are not being vaccinated. 1 Children with high risk medical conditions, including severe respiratory disease, diabetes, cancer and other conditions which impair immunity, are prone to severe influenza infection. Many high risk children in Australia remain unvaccinated against influenza despite long-‐standing recommendations for its use in this group.
17 July 2014
ISG Media Alert: This year’s flu can hit the fit young and healthy!
A patient's story:
It was just a normal Friday evening earlier this year, when 40 year old gold coast resident, Gai O’Dwyer began experiencing severe headaches and body cramps. Over the week-end her symptoms worsened and she felt really sick. So she went to see her GP who suspected a case of influenza and did a nasal swab test. The diagnosis was confirmed a few days later by the laboratory results, which specified the virus as Influenza A. What followed was an extremely difficult six weeks for Gai and her family. Her husband had to take two weeks off work to care for her and their young daughter while she recovered.
16 July 2014
ISG Media Alert: Influenza vaccination during pregnancy is safe and effective
However coverage in Australia is less than 40% - attitudes of GPs need to change - new study
A new study has revealed that less than 40% of pregnant Australian women are being vaccinated against the flu. Pregnant women have an increased risk of influenza complications and scientific evidence suggests that the influenza vaccine is both safe and effective during pregnancy.
The study, undertaken by BMC Family Practice, aimed to investigate the attitudes, beliefs and practices of General Practitioners in relation to influenza vaccines and pregnancy. Remarkably, one-third of General Practitioners did not think that influenza during pregnancy was a serious risk for mother and infant.
15 July 2014
ISG Media Alert: Although winter is here, it’s not too late to get a flu shot!
Experts warn: DON’T SOLDIER ON IF YOU HAVE THE FLU!
A recent study has revealed that two in three Aussie workers incorrectly believe that antibiotics are effective in treating the flu. The study, published by NPS MedicineWise, has revealed a lack of understanding around the severity of influenza and the need for education around prevention and treatment. In short, antibiotics only work for bacterial infections, whereas influenza is due to a virus and requires prescription antivirals administered early to treat the infection.
Many popular over-the-counter cold and flu medications can provide relief from some symptoms of flu, yet they have no affect on the virus itself. The study also revealed that as many as 94% of Australian workers have gone to work with the flu.
28 May 2014
Congratulations to ISG Director Professor Raina MacIntyre for recieving the National Immunisation Achivement Award 2014.
Equity in Disease Prevention: Vaccines for the elderly.
Friday 20th June (9 am - 5 pm)
Lakeside 3, Bayview on the Park Hotel
52 Queens Road, Melbourne
Featuring Max Walker AM, former Australian test cricketer as Keynote Speaker who will speak about the importance of healthy ageing in society.
"We live in an ageing society, where positive ageing and prevention are key to a healthy future. Vaccines can prevent disease, suffering and death. The elderly are at increased risks of vaccine preventable diseases such as influenza, pneumococcal disease, herpes zoster and pertussis. Immunisation is an effective and available strategy for reducing disease burden in the elderly, yet vaccines for the elderly are under-utilised and under-valued compared to children."
This workshop will feature international and national speakers on aging and vaccinology (pneumococcal disease, quadrivalent influenza vaccine, herpes zoster and pertussis), including Professor David Goldblatt, University College London who will speak on the future of pneumococcal vaccines for the elderly. The workshop will provide an update on the latest evidence around immunisation for the elderly, and will address barriers for prevention of infection in the elderly.
For more information visit: www.creimmunisation.com.au
27 May 2014
Flu Virus and People with Chronic Kidney Disease
By Dr Alan Hampson OAM, BSc, MSc, MD(Hon), FASM
"Are people with chronic kidney disease at increased risk?
The answer is yes, they are at increased risk of becoming seriously ill, being hospitalised and even dying if they contract influenza. There are a number of reasons for this."
20 May 2014
Influenza: Time to vaccinate. But who and why?
By Dr Alan Hampson OAM, BSc, MSc, MD(Hon), FASM
"Influenza vaccination should be recommended not only to all patients who qualify for the government-funded vaccine but also to those shown to be at increased risk of complications in the 2009-10 influenza pandemic, including the clinically obese and tobacco smokers."
24 April 2014
“Our study found that immune responses diminish with increasing age and frailty, but that even people with absent immunity at baseline can mount a strong response to vaccines. This is strong evidence that the elderly can be protected by pneumococcal vaccines,” said Professor Raina MacIntyre, the lead author of the study.
2 April 2014
"More than one in two young-to-middle-aged adults are flouting expert warnings by choosing not to vaccinate against influenza this season."
Influenza Vaccination Day 2014
Our Annual Influenza Vaccination day in Melbourne was a success with almost 300 vaccinations given.
ISG 2014 Annual Scientific Meeting a great success
The ISG's Annual Scientific Meeting took place on February 2nd & 3rd at the Park Royal Hotel at Melbourne Airport, and was by all reports a great success.
The ISG congratulates Sue Campbell-Lloyd on her Australia Day Honour
Sue Campbell-LLoyd is one of the founding members of the Influenza Specialist Group, and an active participant since 2006. She received her AM in recognition of her significant service to public health, through the promotion of immunisation programs.
Sue Campbell-Lloyd, AM
The winner of the inaugural ISG Annual Scientific Meeting travel scholarship has been announced.
The Influenza Specialist Group wishes to congratulate Anthea Katelaris on being awarded the ISG Annual Scientific Meeting travel scholarship for 2014 – the first time such a scholarship has been given.
Anthea is a final-year medical student with a passion for public health, influenza and vaccinology, and a demonstrable interest in influenza, having completed a year of research in the field, as well as an internship at the WHO Regional Office for Europe Vaccine-preventable Diseases Unit.
The ISG would also like to thank the other scholarship applicants for their submissions, all of which were of a very high standard.
Details of the 2015 scholarship will be made available during the course of 2014.
AIVC recommendations for the composition of influenza vaccine for Australia in 2014
The Australian Influenza Vaccine Committee (AIVC) met at TGA, Canberra, on 10 October 2013, to recommend influenza viruses to be used in the composition of the influenza vaccines for 2014.
On recommendation of the committee, the TGA has adopted the September WHO recommendations for the trivalent influenza vaccine components:
- A (H1N1): an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1) - like virus, 15 µg HA per dose
- A (H3N2): an A/Texas/50/2012 (H3N2) - like virus*, 15 µg HA per dose
- B: a B/Massachusetts/02/2012 - like virus, 15 µg HA per dose
Quadrivalent vaccines should contain viruses listed above, plus the additional B virus:
- B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus, 15 µg HA per dose.
* A/Texas/50/2012 is an A(H3N2) virus that following adaptation to growth in eggs has maintained antigenic properties similar to the majority of recently circulating cell-propagated A(H3N2) viruses including A/Victoria/361/2011.
The ISG now has its own Facebook page!
Like the Influenza Specialist Group page on Facebook and support us in spreading the knowledge about influenza and influenza vaccination – just click the button: