14 June 2023

Arm yourself for winter: GPs back health groups' calls for flu and COVID jabs

| Gail Eastaway
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Cooma and Bombala GP Dr Hamish Steiner has endorsed health authorities’ recommendations for people to have a flu jab. Photo: Supplied.

Cooma and Bombala GP Dr Hamish Steiner has endorsed a recommendation from the South Eastern NSW PHN and Southern NSW Local Health District (SNSWLHD) encouraging everyone in South Eastern NSW to have their flu shot and COVID-19 booster to top up their protection this winter.

Dr Steiner said: “We are seeing a lot more people with influenza already this year and a number of people who are eligible to be vaccinated are not being vaccinated.

“Generally, people 65 years and older, women at any stage of pregnancy, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and children between six months and five years are recommended to get the influenza vaccination.

“Other people between six months and 65 may also qualify for it if they have relevant medical conditions.

“A lot of people with influenza do get very sick and we often have to admit them to hospital.

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“There are not a lot of effective treatments for influenza, rather than waiting and watching to get better.

“In summary, most of the doctors in the area, and the general practices, would be encouraging everyone who qualifies to get vaccinated and also encouraging other people to consider a vaccination.”

The SNSWLHD Director Public Health Alison Nikitas said that as the cooler months arrived, it was important to take measures to protect yourself and those around you.

“We urge people to get their flu shot and to top up your COVID booster if it’s been six months since your last COVID vaccination or infection,” Ms Nikitas said.

”This will provide the best protection against serious illness and reduce the risk of having both viruses at the same time.

“You can receive your flu and COVID vaccinations at the same time but that will depend on your doctor or pharmacy having both vaccines available for your appointment.

“The flu vaccine takes about two weeks to boost your immune system and will protect you for three to four months. If you are vaccinated now, you will be covered before the peak flu period from around June to September.”

The flu vaccine is free under the National Immunisation Program for people most at risk of complications from influenza, including:

  • People aged 65 and older
  • Women at any stage of pregnancy
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples aged six months and over
  • Children aged between six months and five years
  • People aged six months and older with certain medical conditions.

CEO of COORDINARE – South Eastern NSW PHN, Prudence Buist, said the organisation, in partnership with NSW Health, had launched a winter vaccination campaign encouraging people to prepare for winter.

“The flu and COVID campaign messages have been translated into 11 commonly spoken languages in our region, as we are particularly concerned for vulnerable members of our culturally and linguistically diverse communities as well as First Nations people,” Ms Buist said.

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The campaign will appear on multicultural radio stations across the region, in letterboxes, on social media and in online advertising.

“Vaccinations are the best way to protect yourself and your family from serious illness,” Ms Buist said.

”In addition to ensuring your vaccinations are up to date, you are reminded to sneeze into your elbow, wash your hands regularly, and stay home when you are sick to help stop the spread of both flu and COVID-19.”

People are encouraged to contact their usual general practice, Aboriginal Medical Service, community health centre or pharmacy to make an appointment for their vaccinations. It is not recommended for people to arrive unscheduled for a vaccination.

Those who are worried about their symptoms should seek advice from their doctor or call healthdirect Australia on 1800 022 222 to talk to a registered nurse, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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