AS WE LEARN to live with COVID-19, another challenging virus lurks in the wings.
During lockdowns, with our general improved hand-washing and sterilisation routines, and mask-wearing, confirmed Influenza cases took a dramatic nose dive.
Data on recorded cases provided by Immunisation Coalition shows national Influenza cases in 2019 hit 313,085 and month-on-month data had the virus tracking hight into early 2020 until March/April when there were 6,043 cases in March, this fell to 321 cases in April, as lockdown measures began to kick in.
With numbers in the hundreds, then mere dozens month-on-month for the last two years, the current strain of influenza has now seen a dramatic uptick, with Australia-wide Influenza cases as of May 30, 2022, reported to be 35,317. Victoria is reporting an increase of 50 per cent in the last week of May, rising from 10,000 to 15,000 cases.
Flu vaccines are available from GPs and pharmacies, such as Terry White Chemmart or Warrandyte Medical Centre and would normally cost between $25 and $70 depending on what type of vaccine you are eligible for.
To combat a sudden rise in Influenza cases, Victoria has joined other States and Territories in the push to get the population vaccinated against Influenza.
As part of a $33 million package, more than 3,000 GPs and community pharmacies are offering free flu vaccination to all Victorians during June.
Until now it has only been free for vulnerable groups, including children under five years, people over 65 years, pregnant women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people with increased risk medical conditions.
The Government has said it will also reimburse GPs and community pharmacies for flu vaccines administered to any Victorians that are not usually eligible for free flu shots — so that immunisation providers can continue to use vaccines that they have already purchased.
This will mean all Victorians aged six months and over will be eligible for the free flu shot in June to help boost vaccination coverage as much as possible and avoid more hospitalisations throughout winter. Victorian Minister for Health Martin Foley encouraged all Victorians to get vaccinated against Influenza.
“This will be the first time in two years that we will face a real flu season — we need all Victorians to roll up their sleeves and help protect their loved ones and our health system by getting vaccinated.
“Victorians really took up the call to arms when it came to COVID-19 vaccinations, and we know they can do it again — so we’re removing as many barriers as possible to help boost vaccine coverage,” he said.
The Government is also suggesting vulnerable groups get a fourth “Winter Booster” against COVID-19; also noting that it is possible to have your Influenza and COVID-19 vaccination at the same time.
Winter COVID-19 boosters are recommended for people who are:
65 years or older a resident of an aged care or disability care facility severely immunocompromised Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander aged 50 years and older.
Those aged 16-64 and with a medical condition that increases the risk of severe COVID-19 illness those aged 16 to 64 with disability with significant or complex health needs or multiple comorbidities that have an increased risk of a poor outcome.
Presently, the Winter Booster is not recommended for those aged 16 – 64 who are not considered part of a vulnerable group.
Anyone with cold and flu symptoms should get tested for COVID-19 and remain at home until their symptoms have resolved — regardless of whether it turns out to be COVID-19 or flu.
People who test positive for COVID-19 must isolate for seven days from the date of their result.