Free flu shots for vulnerable
1100 flu fatalities nationwide last year
ALMOST 50,000 Victorians battled the flu during last year’s deadly season, which claimed more than 200 lives.
Alarming new data shows the flu struck down a quarter of a million Australians across the country during the worst season in a decade, with 54,000 patients aged over 65.
Health authorities are now urging people to get the influenza vaccine, with the federal government providing 4.5 million free shots to those who are most at risk, including older Australians and people with chronic conditions.
There were 1100 flu-related deaths across the country last year, 90 per cent of whom were aged over 65, including 10 people in a horror outbreak at a Wangaratta aged-care home.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said two Australian-first vaccines would be made available this year for people over 65 to provide them longer-lasting targeted protection from deadly flu strains.
The National Centre for Immunisation Research’s head of clinical research Professor Robert Booy said while this flu season was predicted to be less severe than last winter, it was vital that as many healthy adults were vaccinated to boost herd immunity.
“If we can get enough people who are healthy, be that children or adults, they will be- come stops to the transmission of the virus, and therefore protect the vulnerable,” Prof Booy said.
A survey released this week of 15,000 Australians — conducted on behalf of the Immunisation Coalition, an independent network of immunologists and GPs — found just over half of adults do not intend to have a flu shot this year. Men in their 50s and 60s are most likely to believe the flu shot doesn’t work, while just a quarter of adults surveyed say they get the jab every year.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy urged people to get vaccinated from mid-April to ensure they were protected before the peak June-September flu season.
“Getting vaccinated is not only safe, but it is the most effective way of protecting yourself,” Professor Murphy said.
The state government is also providing free vaccinations to kids aged under five in a $3.5 million program.
“If we can get enough people who are healthy, be that children or adults, they will become stops to the transmission of the virus, and therefore protect the vulnerable.” PROFESSOR ROBERT BOOY