What sort of flu season is expected this year?
It’s not possible to predict what this flu season will be like.
Flu seasons are unpredictable in a number of ways - while flu spreads every year, the timing, severity, and length of the season varies from one year to another.
Will new flu viruses circulate this season?
Flu viruses are constantly changing so it's not unusual for new flu viruses to appear each year.
Will New Zealand have a flu epidemic?
New Zealand experiences epidemics of seasonal flu each year.
This time of year is called "flu season." In New Zealand, flu season occurs in the winter - flu outbreaks can happen as early as April and can last as late as October.
CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) says the flu season begins when certain key flu indicators (for example, levels of influenza-like illness (ILI), hospitalisation and deaths) rise and remain elevated for a number of consecutive weeks.
Usually ILI increases first, followed by an increase in hospitalisations, which is then followed by increases in flu-associated deaths.
When will flu activity begin and when will it peak?
The timing of flu is very unpredictable and can vary from season to season.
Most seasonal flu activity typically occurs between April and October.
Flu activity most commonly peaks in New Zealand between July and August.
What should I do to protect myself from flu this season?
People should begin getting vaccinated soon after the 2021 flu vaccine becomes available on April 1st, to ensure that as many people as possible are protected before flu season begins.
However, as long as flu viruses are circulating in the community, it’s not too late to get vaccinated.
In addition to getting a seasonal flu vaccine if you have not already gotten vaccinated, you can take everyday preventive actions like staying away from sick people and washing your hands to reduce the spread of germs.
If you are sick with flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading flu to others.
What should I do to protect my loved ones from flu?
Encourage your loved ones to get vaccinated.
Vaccination is especially important for people at high risk for serious flu complications, and their close contacts.
Also, if you have a loved one who is at high risk of flu complications and who develops flu symptoms, encourage him or her to get a medical evaluation.
Children between 6 months and 8 years of age may need two doses of the 2021 flu vaccine to be fully protected from flu. The two doses should be given at least 4 weeks apart. Your child’s doctor or other health care professional can tell you whether your child needs two doses. If your child does need two doses of the 2021 flu vaccine to be fully protected, it is a good idea to begin the vaccination process sooner rather than later.
In addition to getting vaccinated, you and your loved ones can take everyday preventive actions like staying away from sick people and washing your hands to reduce the spread of germs.
If you are sick with flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading influenza to others.
When should I get vaccinated?
CDC recommends that people get vaccinated against flu soon after vaccine becomes available on April 1st.
What kind of vaccines are available in New Zealand for 2021?
This season the quadrivalent (four component) influenza vaccine will be available.
When will the 2021 flu vaccine become available?
The Annual Influenza Immunisation Programme will have a fixed start date of 1 April. In previous years the programme started as soon as the influenza vaccine became available, generally by early March. The change to a fixed start date of 1 April is intended to ensure that the vaccine remains as effective as possible during the peak incidence of influenza, which in recent years has occurred in late winter. For further information, see the Ministry of Health Policy Statement
What flu viruses does this season’s vaccine protect against?
Flu vaccines are designed to protect against the main flu viruses that research suggests will be the most common during the upcoming season.
The World Health Organisation has recommended the following strains for the 2021 southern hemisphere flu season:
- A/Brisbane/02/2018 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus; (strain change)
- A/South Australia/34/2019 (H3N2)-like virus; (strain change)
- B/Washington/02/2019-like (B/Victoria lineage) virus; (strain change) and
- B/Phuket/3073/2013-like (B/Yamagata lineage) virus.
How effective is the flu vaccine?
Influenza vaccine effectiveness (VE) can vary from year to year and among different age and risk groups.
For more information about vaccine effectiveness, visit How Well Does the Seasonal Flu Vaccine Work?
How long does a flu vaccine protect me from getting the flu?
Multiple studies conducted over different seasons and across vaccine types and influenza virus subtypes have shown that the body’s immunity to influenza viruses (acquired either through natural infection or vaccination) declines over time.
The decline in antibodies is influenced by several factors, including the antigen used in the vaccine, the age of the person being vaccinated, and the person's general health (for example, certain chronic health conditions may have an impact on immunity).
When most healthy people with regular immune systems are vaccinated, their bodies produce antibodies and they are protected throughout the flu season, even as antibody levels decline over time.
Older people and others with weakened immune systems may not generate the same amount of antibodies after vaccination; further, their antibody levels may drop more quickly when compared to young, healthy people.
For everyone, getting vaccinated each year provides the best protection against influenza throughout flu season.
It is important to get a flu vaccine every season, even if you got vaccinated the season before and the viruses in the vaccine have not changed for the current season.
Will this season's vaccine be a good match for circulating viruses?
It's not possible to predict with certainty what viruses will circulate during the upcoming season or if the 2018 flu vaccine will be a good match for circulating viruses.
Flu viruses change constantly (called drift). They can change from one season to the next or they can even change within the course of one flu season.
Can the 2021 flu vaccine provide protection even if the vaccine is not a "good" match?
Yes, antibodies made in response to vaccination with one flu virus can sometimes provide protection against different but related viruses.
A less than ideal match may result in reduced vaccine effectiveness against the virus that is different from what is in the vaccine, but it can still provide some protection against influenza illness.
In addition, it's important to remember that the flu vaccine contains three or four flu viruses (depending on the type of vaccine you receive) so that even when there is a less than ideal match or lower effectiveness against one virus, the vaccine may protect against the other viruses.
Can I get vaccinated and still get the flu?
Yes. It’s possible to get sick with the flu even if you have been vaccinated (although you won’t know for sure unless you get a flu test).
This is possible for the following reasons:
• You may be exposed to a flu virus shortly before getting vaccinated or during the period that it takes the body to gain protection after getting vaccinated. This exposure may result in you becoming ill with flu before the vaccine begins to protect you. (About 2 weeks after vaccination, antibodies that provide protection develop in the body.)
• You may be exposed to a flu virus that is not included in the seasonal flu vaccine. There are many different flu viruses that circulate every year. The flu vaccine is made to protect against the three or four flu viruses that research suggests will be most common.
• Unfortunately, some people can become infected with a flu virus the flu vaccine is designed to protect against, despite getting vaccinated. Protection provided by flu vaccination can vary widely, based in part on health and age factors of the person getting vaccinated. In general, the flu vaccine works best among healthy younger adults and older children. Some older people and people with certain chronic illnesses may develop less immunity after vaccination.
Flu vaccination is not a perfect tool, but it is the best way to protect against flu infection.
Working Health can provide all your on-site 2021 workplace flu vaccinations.