A year after it became mandatory in the US, Australia has taken its first steps to introduce a flu vaccine.
The National Health and Medical Research Council said the vaccine would be available in the community in late 2018.
The announcement came after the National Advisory Committee on Immunisation (NACII) recommended the vaccine for adults aged 18 and over and recommended its use.
The vaccine will contain two strains of the flu, the most common strain.
It will also contain a combination of two different flu vaccines, one of which is administered in the nasal spray form.
NACII chairman Dr Tim Soutphommasane said the new vaccine would offer “the best chance for all Australians to get the most out of their flu shots”.
“The introduction of the vaccine in Australia is the latest step in our national immunisation campaign,” Dr Soutphilmesane said.
“The aim is to provide the best chance to prevent and control flu in Australia.”
The announcement comes after the NACIII recommended that all adults aged between 18 and 69 receive a flu shot.
The advice said “children aged 12 and under, those who are aged 50 years and over, and those with health conditions requiring medical attention are recommended to receive the vaccine”.
“There are currently about 50,000 Australians aged over 65 who are vaccinated, with many of those aged under 18 also receiving the vaccine,” Dr Nardini said.
It was a voluntary scheme.
Dr Soutsphommesane said it was an issue that could have been handled by the National Health Service (NHS) but the decision to use the voluntary scheme meant it was now in the public domain.
“This is not a case of people sitting down and saying ‘this is something we should do’,” Dr Sopsphommisane said, “it is an important policy decision and it is an issue for the NHS to take into account”.
He said the vaccination would cost $25 for adults and $5 for children aged under 16.
Dr Nardi said there would be “many factors” that were driving people to get vaccinated, including the need for a “naturalistic” vaccine that was not laced with dangerous ingredients.
“We are also working with local authorities, health organisations, community health centres, and schools to deliver the flu vaccine in the communities where it is required,” Dr Wigley said.
He said “people who need a flu vaccination are more likely to be elderly, people with chronic health conditions, people who are currently vaccinated, and people who have visited a doctor”.
Dr Wiggley said “there is not enough information on how well influenza vaccination works” and the number of people vaccinated was “very small”.
“I think this is a good opportunity for us to look at how we can improve our vaccines.”
The vaccine was first developed in the 1950s, but is now administered to about 15 million people in the United States.
It is administered by nasal spray in the form of a liquid or capsule.
The cost of administering the vaccine to those aged 18 to 64 has not been revealed, but it is estimated the cost of the vaccination to those in the age group would be around $15,000 per year.
A report by the Institute of Medicine recommended people aged under 12 and those aged over 60 get the vaccine, although the advice has not yet been released.
The NACRI recommended vaccination for everyone aged 18 or over in the following age groups: Children aged 0-12 months; Children aged 13 to 15 months; and Children aged 16 to 20 years.
Dr Wigsley said the National Vaccine Advisory Committee would be examining how the decision was implemented in the Australian community.
“I have been very careful about how we do this because I think that the community should be able to make a decision as to how they want to engage in the health care system,” he said.
Dr Henson said people who had previously received a flu jab and were still taking it would have to return for another shot.
She said “this is not about the jab; this is about the community making a decision”.
“This vaccine will provide people with the best possible chance of getting the most from their vaccines.”