Only one in five have swine flu shots
Queensland Health figures show about 20 percent of the state’s population have had the Pandemic H1N1 influenza (human swine flu) vaccine this year.
Queensland Health public affairs advisor Kerry White said the department was recommending it to everyone older than six months of age.
”More then 872,000 (have been vaccinated) on latest figures,” he said.
This time last year, the first cases of human swine flu were reported in America and Mexico. From there it rapidly spread to the rest of the world and quickly became the dominant strain in Australia.
World Health Organisation influenza centre’s deputy director Dr Ian Barr said during last year’s flu season about 50 percent of the population became infected and 191 people died.
“But so far this year it has been quiet. My guess is that nothing will start till May or a little later,” he said.
If, as predicted, the swine flu virus predominates this winter Dr Barr believes it will be a milder season than last year.
“This is due to the number of children, around 50 per cent, who had the virus last year and are now immune, as well as the high level of vaccination since it became available,” he said.
“Around 50 per cent (of the population) at least would be protected against the pandemic virus.”
People who are most at risk of contracting human swine flu are pregnant women, people who are overweight or have a chronic illness and those who work in the public sector, like nurses and teachers.
Australia’s Influenza Specialist Group chairman Dr Alan Hampson said the swine flu vaccine had been incorporated into this winter’s seasonal influenza vaccine, which is free to anyone with underlying risk conditions or those aged 65 years and above.
“As well as this, Panvax, which contains the pandemic vaccine only, is still available and free to any member of the population,” Dr Hampson said.