The quadrivalent influenza vaccine: what is it and do your employees need it? October 22nd, 2015, by Ken Buckley

Like all good employers, you strive to keep your employees healthy and safe. You provide onsite flu vaccinations every year, through a corporate flu provider like Healthworks, to keep your staff healthy and productive all year long.

But this year, there’s murmurs. Employees are worried the flu vax you’re offering doesn’t actually protect them fully. There’s talk of a “better” vaccine.  What’s this all about?

They’re talking about your choice of vaccine – whether you choose the “quad” or the “tri”.

The quad, also called the QIV, is the quadrivalent influenza vaccine. The quadrivalent vaccine is now available in Australia for the 2016 flu season.

The “tri”, or TIV, is the trivalent vaccine, and was the vaccine used most widely in 2015 (although the quad was available later in the year).

What’s the difference?

The quadrivalent vaccine protects against four strains of the influenza virus: two influenza A strains and two influenza B strains.

The tri only protects against three: two A strains and one B strain.

The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) explains:

“For years, flu vaccines were designed to protect against three different flu viruses (trivalent). This included an influenza A H1N1 virus, an influenza A H3N2 virus and one B virus. Experts had to choose one B virus, even though there are two very different lineages of B viruses that both circulate during most seasons. This meant the vaccine did not protect against the group of B viruses not included in the vaccine. Adding another B virus to the vaccine aims to give broader protection against circulating flu viruses.”

For those who like stats and facts, here’s the exact strains the quad vaccine protects against:

  • an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus
  • an A/Switzerland/9715293/2013 (H3N2)-like virus
  • a B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus
  • a B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus.

So is the quad better?

The quick answer is “yes, but”. The “but” is to keep in mind that trivalent vaccine is still very good and far better than nothing.

Health authorities are muted in their recommendation of the quad, because they don’t want people to ignore the tri and miss out on being vaccinated altogether. The quad may not be an option for some because it is more expensive.

In the US, for their flu season, there was huge demand for quad, and not enough supply. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) didn’t recommend the quad over tri vaccine, because it didn’t want people to miss out on getting any flu vax, just because were waiting for quad.

The Australian Department of Health is similarly conservative, saying:

“Quadrivalent influenza vaccines may offer additional benefit through protection against the additional influenza B strain. However, the magnitude of this additional benefit will depend on which influenza B strains are circulating and how much cross protection between B strains occurs.”

How do I get the quad vaccine?

Healthworks is offering the quadrivalent influenza vaccine this year. Want to find out costs? Request a quote here.

What if my flu budget is already set?

It’s OK! The tri vaccine is still just as effective as it was this year, last year and all the many years it’s been around.

As the Department of Health says above, the quad vaccine “may offer additional benefit”. It’s not exponentially better than the tri.

If your budget for workplace flu vax is already locked in, then stick with the tri vaccine. Healthworks is offering both the tri and the quad vaccine in 2016, so you can choose which vaccine is best suited to your business.

Request a quote on onsite flu vax now.


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