Annual flu shots are recommended for all residents
Annual flu shots for residents are the single most important measure for reducing the risk of serious flu for individuals and preventing flu outbreaks.
Two new higher potency vaccines for older residents (65 years and over) were introduced in 2018 to stimulate higher levels of protection in this vulnerable age group.
The new vaccines (Fluad® and Fluzone® High-Dose) have been specifically designed to create a greater immune response amongst older people, who are known to have a weaker response to standard flu shots.
Annual flu shots are recommended for staff as well
It's also important that all staff caring for residents are vaccinated against flu every year. This has the dual benefit of reducing flu illness in staff members and helping to prevent the spread of flu from staff to vulnerable residents, reducing their risk of serious pneumonia, hospitalisation and death.
The effectiveness of flu vaccination tends to decrease with older age which makes it even more important that staff members who have regular contact with vulnerable older residents have themselves been vaccinated against influenza.
Annual flu shots for staff also reduce the risk of them taking influenza home and infecting family and friends.
Which staff members should get an annual flu shot?
All staff directly involved in the care of residents should be vaccinated against influenza every year. This includes:
- administrative staff with patient contact, doctors, nurses, care assistant and therapists
- cleaning and kitchen staff, volunteers, religious workers, and temporary and part-time workers.
Encourage family and friends to get an annual flu shot
Staff should also encourage the family and friends of residents to get a flu shot each year. They should also be reminded to delay visiting if they are not feeling well, particularly if they have cold or flu symptoms.
When to get vaccinated?
The new seasonal flu shots usually become available in April. It's important to have your flu shot in April or early May to give your body time to develop protection against flu before winter starts. It usually takes two weeks after the flu shot for the body to develop strong immunity.
Flu seasons are unpredictable and have been known to begin from late May. Flu activity often remains high until well into October.
Getting a flu shot is still useful even once the flu season is underway.
Flu outbreaks - prepare, identify and manage
Outbreaks of flu affect many residential care facilities across NSW every year, leading to preventable illness, hospitalisation and deaths.
Senior staff should lead the effort to prepare for a flu outbreak using the guidance available and involving all staff, visiting GPs as well as residents and their families.
When a flu outbreak is suspected it is important to remember that outbreak control measures are most effective when started straight away. Don't wait for the outbreak to be confirmed by laboratory testing.
Contact your public health unit early for advice
Your local public health unit is a great source of advice for managing and controlling outbreaks of influenza (and other outbreaks). When the public health unit is notified early outbreaks tend to be shorter and affect less residents and staff.
To contact your local public health unit call 1300 066 055.
Posters and brochures
To order influenza resources please go to the influenza resources page and complete the order form
Policies, guidelines and fact sheets