Flu shots vital during coronavirus pandemic

Queenslanders told flu shots are more important than ever.

Queenslanders have been urged not to become complacent with their flu shots amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

The warning comes from the State Government after Queensland suffered its worst year for influenza in almost two decades in 2019, with an average of five people dying per week. 

Overall, 264 people died and 68,148 contracted influenza in 2019, a more than 500% increase on 2018. 

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Queenslanders risked being hit with a double dose of the flu and COVID-19 if they did not vaccinate against influenza. 

“Every year, we encourage Queenslanders to roll up their sleeves and protect themselves against the flu, and this year this is more important than ever,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“Sadly, we know the flu can be deadly, and with the ongoing threat COVID-19 has on our communities, it is so important we do everything possible to reduce the risk of contracting both illnesses at the same time.”

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Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Steven Miles said distribution of flu vaccines started in March.

“Government-funded flu vaccines are currently being distributed and eligible Queenslanders should book an appointment to get vaccinated,” Mr Miles said.

“This year, all flu vaccines offer protection against four strains of influenza, including the vaccine for those aged over 65.

“It is also vital to help reduce the number of influenza related hospitalisations that put a strain on the health system.”

Queenslanders eligible for the government-funded influenza vaccine can access it from their doctor or immunisation provider. Those eligible includes:

  • Pregnant women during any stage of pregnancy
  • Persons 65 years of age or older
  • Children six months of age to less than five years
  • Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders aged six months and older
  • People six months of age or older who have certain medical conditions which increase the risk of influenza disease complications

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Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young urged those not eligible for the free vaccine to book an appointment with their GP, pharmacist immuniser, or their workplace (if available) to get vaccinated.

“Although the flu vaccine does not protect against COVID-19, it can reduce the severity and spread of influenza, which may make a person more susceptible to other respiratory illnesses like COVID-19,” Dr Young said. 

“It is also important to get vaccinated to prevent possible influenza-related hospitalisations at a time when the pandemic may put unprecedented pressure on our public health system.

“Flu season in Queensland is typically from June to September, with the peak usually in August.”

For more information on the influenza vaccine or getting vaccinated, contact your health care provider.