CANBERRA, Oct. 3 (Xinhua) -- Less effective vaccine, as well as low rate of vaccinations, is to blame for this year's deadly influenza season in Australia, a medical expert said on Tuesday.
More than 370 Australians have been killed so far in one of the nation's worst-ever influenza seasons, with at least 116 of those deaths being within the Victorian aged care system.
"The influenza vaccine doesn't seem to be as effective this year as previous years, especially for elderly members of the community," Tony Bartone, vice president of the Australian Medical Association, told Xinhua.
"Some years there are late seasonal changes, appearances of new strains or mutations. Depending on the type of strain and change, or lack thereof, there can be any number of end results in terms of vaccine effectiveness," he said.
However, it is not a reason not to have a vaccine, far from it, the expert said, adding that "it's still the most important thing a person can do to lower the risk of catching influenza."
Australia's Federal Department of Health has confirmed 172,247 cases of the flu so far this year, a 156 percent increase from the same period last year.
People aged 85 and over and between five and nine years old have the highest rate of catching the disease, and doctors have warned that the influenza season could drag on longer than usual this year.
Bartone also highlighted that the low rate of vaccinations, especially among children, was also to blame because it was giving the influenza virus an opportunity to easily infect the population.
"You've got such a high percentage of the population of children who are not immunized, creating a significant pool of people from which the flu can propagate through the community," he said.
Despite Australia offering free influenza vaccinations, the expert said the uptake in Western Australia was only 10 percent compared to 40 percent in the United States.
The H3N2 influenza A strain has been the most prominent in Australia, responsible for around 76 percent of all reported cases, despite being included in this year's vaccine.
"Basically, all creatures evolve and viruses are no different. They become prevalent because of their ability to rapidly evolve," Bartone noted.