Flu season may be almost behind us, but a record-breaking 105,000 flu cases have been confirmed nationally, leading to several deaths in Victoria and Tasmania.
With vaccination rates static, and in some states falling, Australian Medical Association (AMA) President Michael Gannon has expressed frustration that rates remain stubbornly low and warns that it could all end in disaster in future flu seasons.
“Australia is woefully unprepared for the next pandemic flu,” Mr Gannon told Fairfax Media.
“You never know when it’s going to come – whether it’s five years away, 10 years away, 15 years away – but people are lazy and they just don’t take it seriously enough. Hopefully, the headlines we’ve seen this week will serve as a reminder to the population we need to do better next year.”
The latest outbreak at St John’s Retirement Village in Wangaratta, Victoria, killed seven people, while an outbreak in Tasmania in August at the Uniting Agewell Strathdevon aged care facility killed six people
The Federal Government has just announced plans to introduce compulsory flu vaccinations for all aged-care workers.
“I will work with the medical authorities, health-care workers and the aged-care providers on how we can make it compulsory for those working in aged-care facilities,” said Health Minister Greg Hunt.
“We cannot continue to have a situation where people, whose immunity is already low, are at risk from others who may be infected.”
Australians aged 65 or older are entitled to a flu vaccination for free along with aged-care workers and residents of all-ages.
Professor Allen Cheng at Monash University and Director of Infection Prevention at The Alfred Hospital believes that a better vaccine is needed to combat the latest fast mutating and highly diverse strain of the flu.
Did you get a flu shot this season? Did you contract the flu this season? Should more be done to promote the free nature of such injections?