Flu shot time – have you had yours?

Have you had a winter flu shot yet? If you haven’t, now is a good time to seriously consider getting one. While the talk around the country at the moment is largely centred around bird flu, human flu numbers are rising alarmingly.

The numbers are particularly concerning in NSW, with state authorities predicting a “more severe flu season than usual”. The warning comes on the back of a sharp increase in flu numbers published in the latest NSW Health Respiratory Surveillance Report. The report detailed a 22 per cent jump in people presenting to hospital emergency departments with flu-like illnesses.

For older Australians, in particular, flu can have serious consequences, but vaccination can provide much-needed protection. All Australians aged 65 or older are eligible to receive a free yearly flu shot. The take-up rate, however, is lower than authorities would like.

NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said: “Unfortunately our vaccination rates for this group still aren’t where we need them to be.” Dr Chant stressed the risks older Australians expose themselves to by not being vaccinated. “This is particularly important for people aged 65 and over who are at higher risk of severe illness from influenza,” she said. She expected the flu figures in the state to remain high for at least the next few weeks.

Flu shot rates across Australia 

Despite the availability of free flu shots for Australians aged over 65, nearly half have not taken up the offer. Current figures indicate just 52.4 per cent of people in the age group are vaccinated. This is only a marginal increase on a figure of below 50 per cent reported a fortnight earlier.

Among the unvaccinated, those with asthma are exposing themselves to a greater risk of serious health consequences. So says the National Asthma Council Australia (NAC), which on Thursday added its voice to calls to get vaccinated. 

The flu season is yet to peak, the NAC said in a press release. It “strongly encouraged Australians with asthma and allergies to make sure they are up to date with vaccinations”. “Influenza, COVID-19 and RSV are all viruses that affect the respiratory tract,” the statement said.

NAC spokesperson Dr Joel Tan reminded asthma and allergy sufferers of the elevated risks presented by flu. “People who have asthma and allergies tend to be hit hard from viral infections,” he said. Dr Tan said a common misconception was that it was too late to get a flu shot once winter had arrived. “It is important to get vaccines as soon as you can,” he said.

For those with asthma, the NAC has created a winter checklist. Along with reminders about vaccination, the checklist recommends seeing your doctor for an asthma review and updated action plan.

If you’re not from NSW

While rates are currently highest in NSW, the advice to residents of other states and territories remains the same. Getting your flu shot will reduce your risk of serious illness and help prevent numbers from reaching NSW levels.

If you have not been vaccinated, it is not too late. Those eligible for a free flu shot can receive one from their GP or local pharmacist.

Do you usually get a flu shot each winter? Have you had yours this year? Let us know via the comments section below.

Also read: With all this bird flu around, how safe are eggs, chicken or milk?

Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Andrew Gigacz
Andrew Gigaczhttps://www.patreon.com/AndrewGigacz
Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.
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