The Department of Health is reminding all Victorians to get their annual flu vaccination and help protect the most vulnerable in the community from the virus.
Victoria's Chief Health Officer, Professor Brett Sutton, today launched a campaign encouraging Victorians to get their flu shot ahead of winter and do their part to stop the spread of flu.
"Coronavirus (COVID-19) has taught us the importance of masks, cough etiquette, staying at home when unwell and, of course, being vaccinated,” Prof Sutton said.
"These same behaviours are also our best defence against the flu. Victorians should get their annual flu shot as soon as they can to be protected for the peak flu season, which generally spans June to September.”
More than two million free vaccinations are expected to be administered before the flu season takes hold.
A horror flu season in 2019 saw almost 70,000 Victorians diagnosed with influenza. In 2020, restrictions during the global COVID-19 pandemic saw the number of cases drop to 4,795. So far in 2021, there have been 61 reported cases, compared to a net average of 4,574 for same period between 2018 and 2020.
However, with large crowds again able to gather and the movement of people largely unrestricted, we shouldn’t assume that the flu season will look the same in 2021 as it did in 2020. It’s therefore important not to be complacent with more than 3,300 avoidable deaths occurring in Australia every year from complications arising from seasonal flu, including pneumonia.
The flu shot is now available from general practitioners, as well as community immunisation sessions. Pharmacies are also able to provide the flu shot to anyone over 10 years of age.
Victorians aged over 65, pregnant women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and Victorians with a chronic condition are eligible for a free flu vaccination as part of the National Immunisation Program. All children aged six months to under five years will be able to receive a free flu shot. That’s around 385,000 children.
Flu symptoms can include a sudden high fever, headache, body aches and feeling extremely weak or tired. For children, the elderly or people with a weakened immune system, the flu can have devastating outcomes.
The campaign also reminds Victorians that the current recommended timing between receiving the COVID-19 and flu vaccines is at least 14 days.
“After more than a year of fighting the COVID-19 virus, it is easy to forget the importance of protecting ourselves against the flu," Prof Sutton said.
"The flu doesn’t discriminate – anyone can get the flu. The more people who are vaccinated, the greater the protection for everyone.The flu is not like the common cold. It hits you quickly and hard and can be deadly.
"The flu vaccination is safe, effective and it saves lives – so don’t forget your flu shot. Everyone has a role to play in fighting the flu. If you’re sick, stay home and practice good hygiene, just like we did for the COVID-19 pandemic."
Reviewed 17 May 2021