Influenza vaccine for the 2015 influenza season will be available to the public from mid April 2015. This is later than in previous years where influenza vaccine has been available from health facilities and pharmacies as early as March. The reason for the delay in influenza vaccine availability is as follows. There has been change (drift) in influenza viruses circulating during the 2014 influenza season, therefore the influenza strains included in the 2015/2016 influenza vaccines had to be changed from the strains used in previous years. This change in strains has resulted in delays in manufacturing and quality control of the 2015 southern hemisphere vaccine globally. This has led to a delay in delivery and availability of the vaccine.

The delay in vaccine availability does not mean that it will be too late to give the vaccine. It does mean however, that once vaccine is available, health workers are should alert their patients of vaccine availability and encourage them to come in for vaccination.
Groups recommended for influenza vaccination include:

  1. Pregnant women irrespective of stage of pregnancy, or postpartum (within 2 weeks after delivery)
  2. Persons (adults or children) who are at high risk for influenza and its complications because of underlying medical conditions and who are receiving regular medical care for conditions such as chronic pulmonary (including tuberculosis) and cardiac diseases, chronic renal diseases, diabetes mellitus and similar metabolic disorders, individuals who are immunosuppressed (including HIV infected persons with CD4 counts >100 cells/μl), and individuals who are morbidly obese (body mass index ≥40 kg/m2)
  3. Healthcare workers
  4. Residents of old-age homes and chronic care and rehabilitation institutions
  5. Persons over the age of 65 years
  6. Children aged 6 months – 59 months
  7. Persons aged 6 months to ≤18 years on long-term aspirin therapy
  8. Adults and children who are family contacts of high-risk cases
  9. Any persons wishing to minimise the risk of influenza acquisition, especially in industrial settings, where large-scale absenteeism could cause significant economic losses.

It is important to remember that it takes about two weeks from time of vaccination for a protective antibody response to develop, therefore individuals for whom influenza vaccination is recommended should be encouraged to access the vaccine as soon as it is available.

Source: NICD – 14 April 2015