Life Wellbeing Health authorities urge flu jabs as they brace for what could be a very bad winter
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Health authorities urge flu jabs as they brace for what could be a very bad winter

Australians suffered through the worst flu season on record in 2019, but 2022 could be even worse.Photo: Getty
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While Australians may be tired of rolling up their sleeves for COVID vaccines, there is another jab they should get this year.

Influenza case numbers hit record lows in 2020 and 2021 as lockdowns limited movement and international borders remained closed.

But Professor Ian Barr, Deputy Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza, warns the flu will be back in 2022.

“It’s a combination of vaccination and natural immunity which gets us through most influenza seasons,” Professor Barr said.

“Natural immunity will have reduced somewhat because we haven’t had influenza circulating for the last two years. It’s not a good combination to have lower vaccination rates and reduced population immunity.”

Data commissioned by TerryWhite Chemmart has found Australians are hesitant to get their flu jabs.

The report found one in 10 believed they did not need the influenza vaccine because they’d already received their COVID jab, while about 14 per cent thought they didn’t because there wasn’t much flu around last year.

Only about 35 per cent of eligible Australians received their flu vaccine in 2021.

‘Aggressive and virulent’

But the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners says regardless of a person’s age or circumstances, it is “imperative” they receive a flu jab this year.

“When a virus like influenza has been quiet, it can return in quite an aggressive and virulent form,” Victorian chair Dr Anita Munoz said.

“That creates a perfect storm of people with less immune protection then facing a more aggressive and more severe form of disease.

“What we really don’t want is to have another wave of a really awful and deadly respiratory illness replacing COVID.

“We don’t want people having escaped COVID to end up in ICU with influenza. That would be a terrible tragedy.”

TerryWhite Chemmart Chief Pharmacist Brenton Hart also encouraged Australians to be safe.

He said people could tick two boxes and get their COVID-19 booster at the same time.

“ATAGI supports people having COVID-19 vaccines and flu vaccinations on the same day, effectively the same appointment,” Mr Hart said.

-AAP