Who’s at risk?

People with pre exisiting conditions and certain lifestyle choices are at greater risk of serious complications if they contract influenza

Recommendation

The Immunisation Coalition recommends annual vaccination of all those at risk of complications from influenza, and anyone over 6 months of age wishing to avoid infection.

Risk groups who may be eligible for free Influenza vaccine

Free influenza vaccine is available under the National Immunisation Program (NIP) for people in the following risk groups:

  • Older adults (65+)
  • Indigenous Australians (6 months and over)
  • Pregnant Women
  • Children aged 6 months to <5 years of age
  • People aged 6 months and over with medical conditions that can lead to complications from influenza, such as:
    • COPD and other lung conditions
    • Diabetes (type 1 and type 2)
    • Impaired immunity such as HIV infection
    • Malignant cancers
    • Chronic neurological disorders
    • Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are also at increased risk of severe complications from influenza.

Asthma and Influenza

The influenza vaccine is free for people with severe asthma.

Influenza, commonly known as ‘the flu’, is an illness caused when an influenza virus infects the respiratory tract – your nose and lungs. Influenza infection usually has different symptoms and causes more severe illness than the common cold. It may be a life-threatening infection in certain people. Influenza is a common trigger for asthma along with other respiratory viruses. Australian influenza outbreaks are usually seasonal, occurring from late autumn through winter and into early spring. The influenza vaccine (the flu shot) offers a high degree of protection against influenza and its severe consequences. There are several different influenza viruses and strains. The type usually changes from year to year, so the recommended vaccine also changes from year to year. See your doctor for a flu shot each autumn.

People aged 6 months and over with heart conditions

“Research suggests that the flu shot seems to almost HALVE THE RISK OF HEART ATTACKS in middle-aged people with narrowed arteries. The study adds to the evidence that influenza vaccine could be protective against heart attacks and cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death globally and in Australia.” Professor Raina McIntyre, Head of School of Public Health and Community Medicine at the University of New South Wales and Professor of Infectious Diseases Epidemiology

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People aged 6 months and over with kidney problems

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: In chronic kidney disease elements of the immune system that deal with infections like influenza are less active therefore their recovery is compromised.[1] Influenza infection predisposes to infection with pneumococcal bacteria which pose an additional serious risk to kidney disease sufferers (pneumococcal vaccination is also important in this group)[8]. Those suffering CKD are likely to have other diagnosed or undiagnosed risk factors that can lead to poor outcomes from infection.[9]

How to protect yourself from infection

Vaccination is the single most effective way for anyone to protect themselves against influenza infection. It has been shown that in CKD sufferers, including renal dialysis patients, influenza vaccination reduces the number and severity of influenza infections that they will suffer and reduces the number of hospitalisations and deaths.[8][10]

Other important things in protecting yourself are:

  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and warm water, or use a hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. You can get infected by touching something that is contaminated with influenza and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Follow good health habits: get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

Influenza is highly contagious and can be spread for up to a day before symptoms appear and for up to five days afterwards.[11]

Contact your renal unit immediately to receive further advice.

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Choudhury D, Luna-Salazar C: Preventive health care in chronic kidney disease and end-stage renal disease. Nat Clin Pract Nephrol 2008, 4: 194-206. Van Kerkhove MD, Vandemaele KAH, Shinde V, Jaramillo-Gutierrez G, Koukounari A, Donnelly CA et al.: Risk Factors for Severe Outcomes following 2009 Influenza A (H1N1) Infection: A Global Pooled Analysis. PLoS Med 2011, 8: e1001053. Grau J: Influenza mortality among older Australians, 1980-2000. Australasian Epidemiologist 2007, 14: 11-17. Newall AT, Viboud C, Wood JG: Influenza-attributable mortality in Australians aged more than 50 years: a comparison of different modelling approaches. Epidemiol Infect 2010, 138: 836-842. Newall AT, Scuffham PA: Influenza-related disease: the cost to the Australian healthcare system. Vaccine 2008, 26: 6818-6823. Australian Immunisation Handbook, 10th Ed, 2013 Neuzil KM, Hohlbein C, Zhu Y: Illness among schoolchildren during influenza season: effect on school absenteeism, parental absenteeism from work, and secondary illness in families. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2002, 156: 986-991. Kausz A, Pahari D: The value of vaccination in chronic kidney disease. Semin Dial 2004, 17: 9-11. Demirjian SG, Raina R, Bhimraj A, Navaneethan SD, Gordon SM, Schreiber MJ, Jr. et al.: 2009 influenza A infection and acute kidney injury: incidence, risk factors, and complications. Am J Nephrol 2011, 34: 1-8. Gilbertson DT, Unruh M, McBean AM, Kausz AT, Snyder JJ, Collins AJ: Influenza vaccine delivery and effectiveness in end-stage renal disease. Kidney Int 2003, 63: 738-743. Bell D, Nicoll A, Fukuda K, Horby P, Monto A, Hayden F et al.: Non-pharmaceutical interventions for pandemic influenza, international measures. Emerg Infect Dis 2006, 12: 81-87.

Other Conditions

Other conditions that might put people at high risk of complications from influenza that are not covered by the NIP include:

  • Obesity
  • Stroke
  • Tobacco Smoking
  • Down Syndrome

We believe everyone should be protected against influenza with an annual flu shot.
Everyone can benefit from the influenza vaccine. Remember, even if you are fit and healthy, you can pass the virus on to someone who is at risk of becoming very sick from influenza.

If you care for children, older parents or any other “at risk” person, then a flu shot is highly recommended.

Page Published: 26 March 2018 | Page Updated: 21 July 2021