Lung Foundation Australia is urging Australians not to become complacent about protecting themselves against a potentially fatal illness this winter – and it’s not COVID-19.
With winter just days away, the peak consumer lung health body has raised concerns about the slow uptake of the flu vaccine, with fears that the importance of protecting against the virus has been lost among the focus on COVID-19 vaccines.
Last year, with record flu vaccination rates and COVID-19 restrictions in place across the country, the number of confirmed influenza cases fell dramatically. There were just 21,266 cases reported nationally and 37 deaths, compared to a staggering 309,798 cases for the 2019 seasoni (a figure seven times greater than Australia’s previous 18-year average)ii.
Flutracker data for 2021 shows that just 45 per cent of Australians aged 18-64 have been vaccinated against flu so far this season, compared to 72 per cent at the same time last yeariii.
Lung Foundation Australia Chair and leading respiratory physician, Professor Christine Jenkins AM, says the country could be facing a much more serious flu season if people do not take steps to protect themselves and the community.
“Getting vaccinated against flu is the most important step you can take to help reduce the spread of the virus and protect yourself and your loved ones,” she said.
“Although many of us refer to any cold or flu-like symptoms as ‘the flu’, influenza can be a severe illness. For at-risk groups, including people with a lung condition, those aged over-65 and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, it can even be fatal.
“Each of us plays a critical role in protecting those who are more vulnerable. Flu viruses are constantly changing, so getting vaccinated each year helps to ensure you’re protected against the latest variations and gives them less chance to spread.
“Now is the time to make an appointment with your GP or at your local pharmacy. If you’re currently eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss the scheduling of your vaccinations to ensure you’re protected for the months ahead.”
Professor Jenkins said there were other simple measures everyone could take to help reduce the spread of viruses such as flu and COVID-19.
“It’s important to maintain those practices that have now become second-nature such as good hand hygiene, wearing a mask and social distancing to reduce your chances of getting most respiratory viruses, including the flu. And if you’re feeling unwell or are experiencing symptoms such as a dry cough, fatigue or a fever, ensure you get tested for COVID-19 and isolate until your return a negative result.”
Lung Foundation Australia has developed a free, downloadable Vaccination Tracker to help Australians keep track of their vaccination appointments this winter. To download a copy and find out more about vaccines, how they work and what you should be discussing with your doctor, visit lungfoundation.com.au/protect.
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About Lung Foundation Australia
Lung Foundation Australia is the only charity and leading peak body of its kind in Australia that funds life-changing research and delivers support services that give hope to those affected. Since 1990, we have worked to ensure lung health is a priority for all, from promoting lung health and early diagnosis, advocating for policy change and research investment, raising awareness about the symptoms and prevalence of lung disease and championing equitable access to treatment and care.