Doctors warn of dangers of ‘vaccine fatigue’ ahead of flu season

woman getting flu shot

There haven’t been too many benefits of two years of various forms of lockdown due to COVID, but a positive is that far fewer Australians contracted a cold or flu during that period. Month after month of keeping your distance from others meant very little transmission of ‘the lurgy’.

But that’s changing. We’re experiencing freedoms not seen since early 2020, and those freedoms are shared by the countless microorganisms that accompany humans in life. As a result, our susceptibility to catching colds and the flu has soared, and health officials are warning us to take care.

Part of that ‘care’ is a flu vaccination, but health professionals fear that ‘vaccine fatigue’ has set in and many people won’t bother this year.

Read: COVID and flu together more than doubles death risk, say experts

Dr Mark Lubliner, chief medical officer at Bupa, said it was important that people now prioritise their annual flu vaccination. “I know that some of us may have vaccination fatigue, but now is not the time to stop protecting ourselves against the flu,” he said.

For those who have been ‘knocked about’ after receiving their COVID vaccinations – spending the next day in bed or feeling generally unwell for the next 24 hours – a hesitancy to head back to their local clinic for another jab is understandable.

But if they were to contract flu at some later stage, they could well regret that decision. As Dr Lubliner says: “The flu is not just a bad cold, it can be fatal for vulnerable people.”

Read: What to expect when flu meets COVID this year

The flow-on effects of that must also be considered, says Dr Lubliner. “Our hospital system remains under stress from the COVID-19 pandemic and getting the flu shot will also help take pressure off our hospitals by preventing more severe illness.”

So it’s not just our own health and wellbeing we should consider, but others as well.

Many of us have forgotten just how debilitating flu, and even the common cold, can be. Emerging from shoulder surgery at the start of April, I contracted a bug of some sort. It left me feeling devoid of energy for a week or more and even now, nearly a month later, I’m still feeling the effects.

Read: Powerful four-strain flu vaccine available for over 60s

I had regular tests for COVID during this time, all coming up negative. So I either had the ‘regular’ flu or, more likely, just a common cold. I am one of the lucky ones who seems to escape even mild adverse reactions to vaccines so, as a 57-year-old I’ll be heading in to get my flu vaccination ahead of winter.

With the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners predicting that the 2022 influenza season could hit harder than many previous years because the public has not been exposed to the virus for two years, vaccination remains an important part of the medical armoury.

Flu vaccinations are provided in many workplaces, and available through your GP and most pharmacies.

People who are more at risk of complications from influenza and those aged 65 and over are eligible for a free annual influenza vaccination under the National Immunisation Program.

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