Australians have been urged by health authorities to get the flu vaccine as soon as possible this year.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Paul Kelly said in a coronavirus update press conference on Wednesday that “there are millions of vaccines” now available and he’d encourage people to get the jab “as soon as they can”.
“I would really encourage and really stress the importance, this year in particular, for people to get their flu vaccine as soon as they can in the normal way through their normal general practice, through their pharmacist or various workplace-related vaccine providers,” said Kelly.
“This is particularly important for those in our community who are most vulnerable for the COVID-19 problem as well as flu.”
This group of people includes the elderly, and those with chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease and cancer.
“In addition the usual people that we think about in terms of a flu season and protecting them is young children, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, particularly those over 50, and pregnant women,” Kelly explained.
“So pregnant women and young children at this stage don’t appear to be at high risk of COVID-19 but they certainly are at risk of flu and they should be considering getting their flu vaccine as soon as possible. So that’s the main message for today.”
Australian Medical Association (AMA) President, Dr Tony Bartone, said the availability of the vaccine should indicate the public take action now to protect their health.
“Each year, thousands of Australians are admitted to hospitals with influenza complications, with around a thousand Australians dying from influenza in each of the past few years,” Dr Bartone said.
While usually it’s advised to get the vaccine around mid-April, he said “people should not feel that they have to wait” given the coronavirus climate.
“Influenza vaccine is the only safe, proven, and tested way of not becoming an influenza statistic,” he said.
“The influenza virus changes each year, which is another reason yearly administration of the latest season’s new four strain vaccine is necessary.”