Time to have a flu shot, say health authorities

Health authorities say it's time to have a flu shot CCN339

Central Coast Local Health District (CCLHD) is encouraging people to roll up their sleeves for the flu vaccine, to protect themselves and the community this winter.

CCLHD Acting Director of Public Health, Paul Byleveld, said flu is a serious illness and is already circulating in the community alongside COVID-19.

“Winter is a time when we spend more time indoors, which increases the risk of catching viral illnesses, so it’s important to take precautions,” he said.

“With our borders open again, flu is around for the first time in two years so your best protection this winter is to get a flu vaccination and stay up to date with your COVID-19 vaccinations.”

It is recommended everyone aged six months and older gets a flu vaccine but particularly those in high-risk groups, as the virus is extremely contagious and potentially deadly.

It is safe to have both the COVID-19 vaccine and the flu vaccine at the same time.

“If it’s time for your COVID-19 booster, make the most of your appointment and speak to your GP about having the flu shot too,” Byleveld said.

The flu vaccine is free for high-risk groups including: children aged six months to under five years; pregnant women; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from six months of age; people aged 65 and over; and people with serious health conditions (including diabetes, serious heart, lung, kidney or liver disease, immunosuppression and obesity).

Contact your GP or pharmacist to book an appointment to get vaccinated.

While the flu vaccine is free for those at higher risk of severe influenza, some providers may charge an administration or consultation fee.

Ask your GP or pharmacist if this applies to you.

Meanwhile, CCLHD is advising everyone to take simple precautions such as staying at home if you are sick and avoiding close contact with other people to protect yourself and the community from flu and COVID-19.

Sneeze into your elbow instead of your hands and wash your hands thoroughly and often.

Meanwhile, community pharmacy network TerryWhite Chemmart (TWC) will be offering twin-vaccinations in pharmacies across the country, enabling patients to receive both their flu and COVID-19 vaccinations in different arms in the one appointment.

Chief Pharmacist for TerryWhite Chemmart, Brenton Hart, said while COVID-19 has dominated the national dialogue for the past two years, influenza could make a comeback after nearly two years off.

“Rates of flu have been down in recent years, which has also impacted vaccination rates, and our research, which surveyed regular pharmacy goers, shows that close to 40 per cent of those aged 18-49 still don’t intend to get the flu vaccination this year,” Hart said.

“More concerning is that 28 per cent of those over the age of 50 don’t plan to get it, despite being at greater risk of complications from influenza than other age groups.

“Naturally, we want to see the rate of flu vaccinations increase this year.”

Experts warn that we could see a potential surge in influenza this winter alongside existing COVID-19 concerns, following the re-emergence of the flu in several countries in the northern hemisphere.

Terry Collins