Health officials are urging Australians to book in to get their flu vaccine as soon as possible.
“Protecting yourself and your family from the flu with a vaccination now will help reduce the strain on health resources from COVID-19,” Harry Nespolon, president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), told the ABC.
While the flu shot won’t protect you from getting coronavirus, it will help to reduce the severity of the common flu. If you were to cop the full brunt of the flu (without having the vaccine), it could lower your immune system and make you more susceptible to other illnesses.
In normal circumstances, the flu vaccine isn’t usually administered until late April or even May, but due to the current health climate, it has been brought forward.
This year, people over the age of 65 will receive a targeted flu vaccine specifically made for their age group.
“Older people, aged over 65 years, are advised to wait for a special flu vaccine for their more at-risk age group that provides enhanced immunogenicity,” Dr. Nespolon told the ABC.
According to the Canberra Times, this shot, called “the Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccine (QIV), will be available in mid-April.”
But, don’t just rock up to your GPs office to get the shot, make sure you call ahead to see if they have it in stock.
Calling ahead of time is especially important for those more vulnerable “as it allows clinic staff to make sure patients don’t have any flu or COVID-19 symptoms before coming to the clinic, to ensure the safety of other patients, as well as GPs and staff,” Dr. Nespolon told the ABC.
“Practices have infection control processes in place, but patients need to do their bit — that’s why you must always call ahead, don’t just drop in.”
According to the ABC, the flu vaccine is offered at certain pharmacies, community health clinics and Aboriginal Medical Services.
If you’d prefer to avoid heading to your GPs office, give the pharmacies in your local area a call and see if they are offering immunisations.
The vaccine is free for some individuals, but you must meet certain criteria to receive it at no cost. According to the Department of Health, “if you are not eligible for [a] free vaccine, you may need to pay for it. The cost depends on the type of vaccine, the formula and where you buy it from. Your immunisation provider can give you more information.”
Those eligible to receive the flu shot for free includes:
- Pregnant women
- Children aged between six months and five years (a new addition to the list, according to the ABC)
- People aged 65 and over
- All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months and over
- People aged over six months with health conditions that puts them more at risk (including severe asthma, cardiac disease, neurological conditions, impaired immunity etc.)
The current health crisis is evolving rapidly. If you suspect you or a family member has coronavirus you should call (not visit) your GP or ring the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.