Flu shot
Flu shot SAM MOOY

5 tips for getting the most from your flu shot

WITH last year's flu season the largest since the 2009 pandemic year, Clarence Valley residents are being encouraged to be informed about the most clinically appropriate time to receive their flu shots, to protect against this year's approaching flu season.

The Australian Government is providing two new enhanced flu vaccines, in an effort to prevent a repeat of last year's prolonged flu season. The new and more potent vaccines are specifically made for the over 65 age group. These flu vaccines are now available at your local GP clinic.

There are also new State-funded vaccination programs that provide free vaccinations for all children aged between 6 months and 5 years.

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Dr Hamish Meldrum, GP Obstetrician and Director of Medical Services at Ochre Health, said that as flu viruses continually change, the development of vaccines that effectively target the flu virus is a constant challenge.

"Last year was an especially bad year for the flu in Australia. It is predicted that the stronger vaccines, which are targeting the influenza A virus in the over 65 age group, will do a better job this year," he said.

Dr Meldrum provides his five tips for managing your flu shot this season:

1. Get vaccinated in May. Flu vaccines provide the most protection in the first three to four months after they are received. With our peak flu season typically occurring between June and September, getting vaccinated in May is advisable.

2. Check if you're eligible for a free vaccine. This year's new vaccines will be free for people aged 65 and over - this age group is the most in need of greater protection. Additionally, pregnant women (at any stage), people with chronic diseases, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over 15 years are eligible for free vaccines. Most State and Territory governments are also funding free flu jabs for all children aged between six months to under five years of age.

3. Practice good hygiene even if you get the flu shot. Getting vaccinated doesn't guarantee that you won't get the flu, but it greatly reduces the risk. Dr Meldrum advises good hygiene practices even if you've been vaccinated, such as washing your hands regularly before handling food, regularly clean surfaces such as desks and keyboards, avoid sharing towels, plates, cups and cutlery - particularly when you're around young children. This can also stop the spread of infection to other vulnerable groups, including babies too young to get immunised.

4. Know that post-flu-shot symptoms are normal. The flu vaccine is not a live vaccine, which means you can't catch the flu from the shot. Common side-effects such as temporary soreness at the injection site, low-grade short-lived fever (lasting one to two days) and muscle aches relate to the vaccine stimulating the immune system. Once vaccinated, a person's immune system responds much more rapidly to the flu virus. However, if you continue to feel unwell after a flu shot, speak to your local GP.

5. Vaccinate your children. In addition to the free flu vaccines available through the National Immunisation Program, most State and Territory governments are providing free flu jabs for children aged between six months and five years old. Young children, especially those under three years of age, are more likely to be hospitalised from influenza.

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