By ALLISON HORE
While a full roll-out of COVID-19 vaccinations is still a long way off, Sydney-siders are being urged to get a flu shot to stave off what could be a devastating flu season.
Following the introduction of coronavirus restrictions at the end of March last year, Influenza cases dropped by more than 99 percent. This means, in 2020, Australia saw the lowest number of flu cases on record.
While the number of flu cases in Australia remains low, as life in the city returns to normal and social distancing requirements are lifted, this year’s flu season could be devastating. According to Chris Moy from the Australian Medical Association, a year with very few flu cases is often followed by a year with a big flu season due to reduced immunity at a population level.
But with high influenza vaccination rates, the mammoth flu season predicted can be avoided.
Receiving her flu shot at Chemistworks in Broadway Shopping Centre, federal member for Sydney, Tanya Plibersek, told City Hub vaccination is one of the “simplest ways” people can protect the health of themselves and their loved ones throughout the flu season.
She urged Sydney-siders to get the shot “even if you’re not worried about your own health,” to protect vulnerable members of the community.
“Both my mum and my mother-in-law are 89 years old this year,” she said.
“I want to make sure that I keep them safe because I know if I got the flu, even if it was a mild case, the potential for me to pass it on to someone I love and make them really sick Is something I don’t want to happen.”
A safe return to normal
Ms. Plibersek said she was excited to see Sydney slowly returning to normal, but said as things reopen it’s “more important than ever” that people get vaccinated with flu shots.
“We know that a bad flu season doesn’t just take a toll on the individuals who get sick, it really takes a toll on frontline health workers who are then put in a position where they’re struggling with extra people coming into hospital emergency and taking up beds,” she said.
“We can’t afford to do that when there’s any risk of another wave of COVID. It would be a disaster to have a bad flu season and another wave of COVID.”
The Department of Health recommends people leave a 14-day gap between a seasonal flu vaccine and a dose of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. They say people within the later stages of the COVID-19 roll out should get the flu vaccine as soon as possible.
Ms. Plibersek hopes Sydney-siders will get on board for both the flu and COVID-19 vaccines.
“Honestly, the best way that we can get to something more like normal is for our population to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and to be vaccinated to protect them from the flu,” she said.
“In Sydney, in particular, we’re so used to being able to go to a bar or to a live music venue or a restaurant, and people have really missed those opportunities to enjoy all the city has to offer.”
Children under 5, people over 65, Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people, people with certain medical conditions and pregnant women are all eligible to receive free flu vaccines under the National Immunisation Program.
Flu vaccinations can be booked through a GP or at some local pharmacies, like Chemistworks.