FAQ'S ABOUT THE FLU VACCINE
Does FLUVAX® contain blood products?
No blood products are used in the manufacturing process of FLUVAX®.
Does FLUVAX® contain thiomersal?
No FLUVAX® is preservative free. The vaccine does not contain thiomersal.
Does FLUVAX® contain neomycin, polymyxin or gentamicin?
FLUVAX® vaccine does contain traces of neomycin and polymyxin due to the use of these substances during production process.
FLUVAX® vaccine does not contain any trace of gentamicin suphate.
FLUVAX® should be used with caution in subjects with a hypersensitivity to traces of these. However, this vaccine should not be used in people who have had an anaphylactic reaction to neomycin or polymyxin. Vaccine data sheets may vary in their recommendations or contraindications.
Regarding hypersensity and contraindications, current best evidence for influenza vaccines and recommendations by IMAC and Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) are that individuals with anaphylaxis to any ingredient in the vaccine are contraindicated except egg allergy and should not receive a vaccine that includes them as residual.
Will influenza protect me against the common cold?
No. The vaccine will only provide protection against the strains of influenza virus present in the vaccine.
Will an anti-viral prevent me developing influenza?
No. Anti-virals only help relieve symptoms once you have the flu. Your best prevention method is to get vaccinated.
When should people be vaccinated?
The optimal time to be vaccinated is in advance of the peak period of influenza activity. Influenza vaccines can be given even when influenza virus activity has been identified, as protective antibody levels have been observed to develop from four days to two weeks after immunisation.
Why is influenza immunisation is needed every year?
Annual immunisation is required for two key reasons: first, because protection lessens over time and secondly, because influenza can be caused by different strains of viruses that are not always represented in the previous year's vaccine.
Seasonal influenza vaccinations are recognised as being the single most effective way of reducing the impact of seasonal influenza - especially for those most at risk of complications. This can be particularly true for the elderly.
Can you get influenza from the vaccine?
No as the vaccine does not include any live viruses. The vaccines have been made from influenza virus that has been concentrated, inactivated, then broken apart.
When vaccinated, the body responds to the vaccine by producing an immune response. This can include systemic symptoms such as fever, malaise and muscle aches. Other respiratory viruses circulate during the winter months and influenza vaccines do not protect against these. Most of these viruses cause milder infections, for example the common cold, and do not pose the same threat, particularly to those at higher risk. They should not be confused with influenza. Certain other infections may, on occasion, produce influenza-like symptoms and quite severe illness, which can lead to the suggestion that the vaccine is ineffective.
Who should be immunised?
Everyone, even the fit and healthy. Influenza continues to be a major threat to public health worldwide because of its ability to spread rapidly through populations.
FLUVAX® is approved for use in individuals aged 5 years and over but should be used with caution in children aged 5-8 years. The Ministry of Health recommends that FLUVAX® should only be given to individuals aged 9 years and over and should not be given to any child with a history of febrile convulsions.
Who should not receive the vaccine?
The general contraindication to receiving any vaccine is a history of anaphylaxis to a previous dose or any constituent of the vaccine.
Immunisation should be deferred for anyone who is acutely unwell with a fever or other systemic illness.
Influenza vaccine is produced in hens eggs and may contain residual egg protein. Patients who have had a confirmed anaphylactic reaction to egg protein can still receive the vaccine under specialist supervision.
Neomycin and polymyxin are also residual in some influenza vaccines and patients with known anaphylaxis to these should not receive a vaccine that includes them as residual.
The seasonal influenza vaccine contains fragments of disrupted (inactivated) virus. It stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies that naturally protect against circulating influenza viruses. Many other viruses are also present throughout the year, so people may catch a different respiratory infection with 'flu-like' symptoms around the time the vaccine is give and mistakenly blame the influenza vaccine or influenza virus. The vaccine itself can cause mild aches and pains for up to a day or two after vaccination. Sometimes this is mistaken as early symptoms of the flu.
If Guillain-Barré syndrome has occurred within 6 weeks of previous influenza vaccination, the decision to give Fluvax® vaccine should be based on careful consideration of the potential benefits and risks.
Is influenza immunisation recommended for pregnant women?
Yes. New Zealand and international experience from previous seasonal influenza outbreaks and the 2009/2010 pandemic showed that pregnant women had significantly more complications associated with influenza illness than other groups. Maternal influenza infection has been associated with an increased risk of maternal hospitalisation, fetal malformation and other illnesses.
There are a range of changes that occur during pregnancy which may put pregnant women at a higher risk of complications from influenza. These include changes to the lung function including decreased lung capacity and tidal volume; increased cardiac output and oxygen consumption, and changes to the immune response particularly cell-mediated immunity. Because of the above changes, pregnant women with coexisting medical conditions are at even greater risk of severe influenza-related illness. When pregnancy is superimposed on high-risk conditions such as asthma or diabetes mellitus, influenza infection associated illness is 3-4 times greater than for non-pregnant women.
The seasonal influenza vaccine is strongly recommended for women who will be pregnant during the influenza season. Where possible, vaccines are usually given in the second and third trimesters but because vaccination with the influenza vaccine has been shown to be highly beneficial for pregnant women and their unborn babies, it is recommended that influenza vaccination should be offered to all women who will be pregnant when influenza is circulating. New Zealand is not alone in this recommendation, influenza vaccination for all pregnant women is currently recommended by health authorities in the USA, Australia and many European countries.
The influenza vaccine has been shown to be safe and effective in pregnant women in all trimesters, no unusual patterns in pregnancy or fetal outcomes have been observed in vaccine adverse events reports.
Maternal Protection for the newborn infant
Influenza infection in young infants often prompts hospitalisation and can predispose infants to bacterial pneumonia or otitis media. Another compelling reason to give influenza vaccine to the pregnant woman is the passive protection the mother will pass on to their young infant. Vaccination of pregnant women against influenza has been shown to decrease the incidence of influenza in their new-born babies. Infants of immunised mothers are nearly 50% less likely to be admitted to hospital with influenza than those of unvaccinated mothers.
Can the influenza vaccine be given to a woman who is breast-feeding?
Yes. The vaccine may be safely given to a lactating women.
Will having a vaccination effect my ability to give blood either before or after?
Not a problem at all, whether it be before or after.