Flu vaccine 2013: should heart patients get it?

As winter approaches, a common question many patients ask is “Should I have the flu vaccine this year?” Prof Chris Semsarian outlines what the flu vaccine is for Australia 2013 and who should get it?

The Southern Hemisphere vaccine for the winter of year 2013 in Australia contains protection against 3 strains of influenza virus:

• A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like strain (A/California/7/2009 NYMC X-181)
• A/Victoria/361/2009 (H3N2)-like strain (A/Victoria/361/2011 IVR-165)
• B/Wisconsin/1/2010-like strain (B/Hubei-Wujiagang/158/2009 NYMC BX-39)

So who should get it and when?

The influenza vaccine is strongly recommended (and free) for:

  • Everyone aged 65 years and older
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from 15 years of age
  • Pregnant women
  • Everyone aged about 6 months and over with a chronic disease, such as all forms of heart disease (this includes genetic heart disease)
  • Residents in nursing homes and long-term care facilities

So if there are no contraindications (other factors or reasons to withhold the vaccine), all heart patients are recommended to have the flu vaccine.

The influenza vaccine is also strongly recommended for healthcare workers, people providing emergency or essential services and people working with children, animals or specific communities.

Vaccination is recommended in early autumn to allow time for your immunity to be strengthened before the flu season starts.

Discuss with your doctor

As with all vaccines, you will need to be fully assessed by your GP or cardiologist to consider your individual circumstances e.g. previous allergies, age (especially you are young or if it’s for your child), etc.

In particular, people with Brugada syndrome may need to be monitored for a short while after receiving the vaccine and take special care to find out how to immediately treat any fevers that may occur following the flu vaccination. This should all be discussed with your GP or cardiologist.

More information

Australian Government’s Department of Health and Ageing Flu Vaccine Q&A