A media blitz encouraging people to get their flu shots as early as possible could undermine the efficacy of this year’s vaccine program, the RACGP says.
Pharmacy giant Chemist Warehouse began offering $11 flu shots to customers on Monday, plugging the deal in stores and on its website. A number of Priceline pharmacies will start offering the vaccinations next week.
It follows the NSW government announcement of a multi-pronged strategy to avoid a repeat of last year’s costly flu season, including encouragements to get the flu shot in April, as soon as it is available.
But the RACGP says May is the best time to get vaccinated, because the effectiveness can wear off.
“Urging patients to receive their flu vaccination too early [may put them at] serious risk,” RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel says.
He cites recent evidence that protection may begin to wear off after three to four months, with the jab losing effectiveness by 6–11% a month.
The flu season typically affects Australia from June to September, peaking in August, meaning May is considered the best injection month for patients to receive maximum coverage, he says.
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia said it will begin a national campaign to raise awareness of pharmacy-based flu vaccinations later this month.
But a guild spokesperson stressed: “If it’s good enough for the immunisation program to start in April, it’s good enough for pharmacists to beat the drum about vaccination right now.”