26 September 2023

Health stresses need for annual flu jabs

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The Department of Health has issued a joint statement from its Chief Medical Officer and Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer on the importance of receiving an influenza vaccination this winter.

Chief Medical Officer, Sonya Bennett said that with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s winter season would likely see both an increase in transmission of the Coronavirus and, for the first time since 2019, a resurgence in influenza.

“Given this, it is important that people, particularly those in at-risk population groups, maximise their protection against both viruses by being vaccinated — and continue to practise all of the safe hygiene measures we have become accustomed to throughout the pandemic,” Dr Bennett said.

“Both influenza and COVID-19 are highly contagious viral infections that can lead to serious illness, hospitalisation or even death.

She said everyone, six months and older, was recommended to get a flu vaccine each year.

“Flu vaccines registered for use in Australia are safe and effective and are the best way to protect yourself from influenza and transmitting it to others. If you have been vaccinated, you can still get the flu, but it is generally a less severe illness,” Dr Bennett said.

Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Alison McMillan said the medical advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation was that flu vaccines could be safely administered at the same time as a COVID-19 vaccine.

“We would encourage any eligible person who hasn’t received their COVID-19 winter booster dose to check with their health service provider to see if they can receive both vaccines during the same appointment,” Professor McMillan said.

“There are enough flu vaccine doses in Australia to cover all at-risk people who are eligible for a free vaccine through the National Immunisation Program.”

She said this year there was a particular concern about young children, as many had never been exposed to the flu virus or had a flu vaccine, and had not developed any immunity, increasing the risk of complications.

“Flu vaccination during pregnancy is safe, free and recommended during every pregnancy and at any stage of pregnancy,” Professor McMillan said.

“By getting vaccinated during pregnancy, protective antibodies are passed on to the baby, protecting them in their first few months of life when they are most vulnerable.”

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