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Vaccines critical for winter protection

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Health experts are urging Australians to protect themselves with a flu vaccine ahead of winter. Photo: Getty
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Winter is coming, bringing with it an expected uptick in COVID-19 cases across Australia.

But experts say a surge in the number of flu cases could possibly be delayed until 2023, based on the recent experience of people in the northern hemisphere.

“Countries like the United States had influenza, but their experience wasn’t as bad as what was expected after two years of few (flu) cases circulating,” infectious diseases expert Peter Collignon told AAP.

Professor Collignon said while it’s a good idea to have a flu vaccine this year, Australia may only see the return of widespread flu cases in winter 2023 as international travel numbers return to pre-pandemic levels.

“The pandemic is not yet over,” he said.

“We haven’t had any flu for two years (in Australia), but we can’t predict what’s in store.”

This year, people aged 65 and older, Indigenous Australians aged at least 50, disability care residents and the immunocompromised are eligible for a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

Health Minister Greg Hunt says anyone eligible for a winter COVID-19 shot should come forward.

“You can pair it with your annual flu shot, which will help protect you against both the flu and COVID-19 this winter,” he said in a statement.

“Vaccines are your best protection against the most severe impacts of COVID and may provide protection against long COVID.

“Even if you have had COVID-19, it is important to maximise your protection from severe illness and have a booster.”

– AAP