Two Bs or not two Bs? Why GPs are questioning this year's flu vaccine

Mr 2018 May10 Blog

GPs are questioning whether elderly patients will have optimal protection from influenza this year given that the virulent B/Brisbane strain is not included in the funded vaccine.

The Federal Government is funding two boosted trivalent flu vaccines, Fluzone and Fluad, for the over-65s’ National Immunisation Program.

However, Melbourne GP Dr Shikha Parmar says she’s baffled as to why the B/Brisbane strain has been omitted from these vaccines, which contain two A strains and another B strain.

“The danger of this virulent strain is all over the news and included in the regular quadrivalent vaccine recommended for everyone else under 65,” she says.

The B/Brisbane strain is blamed for contributing to a particularly bad influenza season last year when 90% of the 1100 deaths occurred in the elderly.

Dr Parmar says she chose to vaccinate a family member with diabetes using both the enhanced trivalent and quadrivalent vaccine.

Queensland GP Dr Wade Wilson also expressed concern on Channel 9 News in April that his elderly patients wouldn’t be well protected against flu with this year’s vaccine.

“Unfortunately they’ve left the wrong virus out of it,” he said.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy responded on the show, saying older people were better off with a vaccine that conferred a greater immune response and would probably get some cross-protection from the B strain included in the trivalent vaccine.

In March, the PBAC accepted advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) that there was “sufficient evidence” for the adjuvanted trivalent vaccines’ superior effectiveness for over-65s.

The PBAC agreed with ATAGI that the additional protection in the boosted trivalent vaccines was “substantial enough to offset, if not outweigh, potential loss of protection against the alternative B lineage not in the vaccine, in most years, for those over 65”.


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