One in two Australian adults do not plan to vaccinate against influenza this year despite last year’s record flu season, which saw more than 249,000 reported infections.
Research by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia (PGA) reveals that 43 per cent of Australian adults fail to understand that annual flu vaccination is required for optimal protection against the potentially life-threatening virus.
On average, around 3000 Australians die from the flu each year.
PGA National President George Tambassis says Australian adults are generally misinformed about the seriousness of the flu and are unaware of some of the infectious aspects.
“Most Australians don’t realise how infectious the flu is, with 77 per cent of respondents unaware the flu virus can remain active when airborne for 45 minutes or more,” he said.
“Our research showed more than half (57 per cent) of Australian adults mistakenly consider themselves to be at low risk of contracting the flu.
“The flu virus can affect anyone, even the fit and healthy, so your best defence against the flu is vaccination.
“Flu vaccinations promote community immunity, whereby if enough people are vaccinated against the infection, they can help protect those unable to be vaccinated, including immune-compromised/sick, or very young infants,” said Mr Tambassis.
Last year, was the first time that trained community pharmacists could administer flu shots, and the research showed Australians found that process much more convenient than seeing a GP.
“Community pharmacists are among Australia’s most accessible healthcare professionals. People can obtain advice and flu vaccinations from the majority of the 5700 community pharmacies nation-wide, usually without the need for scheduling an appointment,” he said.
“In Australia, 95 per cent of capital city-based residents, and 72 per cent of those based in regional areas live within 2.5 kilometres of a pharmacy,” said Mr Tambassis.
Each year, approximately 18,000 Australians are hospitalised due to influenza, yet many adults do not consider themselves susceptible to flu infection, according to the new research.
Flu vaccinations are free for anyone aged 65 years or older.
Australian Medical Association vice-president Dr Tony Bartone warned patients not to get their flu vaccination too early in the year as it could put them in danger during peak season.
“It’s worth waiting until late April or early May as we know the protection best lasts for three to four months,” he said.
“You don’t want to have it now … as potentially you’re leaving yourself vulnerable in the peak month of August.”
Are you planning on getting a flu shot this year? Why or why not?