Photo by Hyttalo Souza on Unsplash

The Government has a 3-step plan in place to ease restrictions over the coming months but have they taken into account the unknown affect COVID-19 will have during our flu season? Securing more than 16.5 million doses of the flu vaccine, the Australian Government is urging Australians to get vaccinated as soon as possible to ‘reduce the risk of a dangerous double up’.

While the flu vaccine doesn’t protect you against COVID-19, it reduces your risk of influenza which is responsible for hundreds of deaths per year and thousands of hospitalisations. However, regardless of the record numbers of flu vaccines and the great job they do at stopping influenza, COVID-19 is a whole other monster and although people are anxiously awaiting the lifting of restrictions, there is widespread thought that we should wait out the flu season until we know how COVID-19 will react.

Information from the Government

‘All states and territories are distributing influenza vaccines for the NIP via normal channels and significant numbers of vaccine doses are already with GPs and other providers, with others being distributed as quickly as possible.

It is hoped that these additional vaccines will help to ensure as many people as possible can be vaccinated this year.

The Government has invested more than $80 million to provide free 2020 flu vaccine to people most at risk of complications from influenza, through the NIP.

Annual vaccination is the most important measure to prevent influenza and is recommended for all people aged six months and over (unless contraindicated).

From 1 May 2020, all aged care workers and visitors must have been vaccinated against seasonal influenza to enter an aged care facility’.

Are you eligible for a free flu shot?

The NIP Schedule provides free flu vaccinations to the people who are most at risk of complications from the flu. These include:

  • pregnant women (at any stage of their pregnancy)
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 6 months and older
  • people aged 65 years and older
  • people aged 6 months and older with certain health conditions (such as heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease and asthma)
  • all children aged between 6 months and 5 years

What’s the difference between COVID-19 and influenza?

While the early symptoms of the seasonal flu and COVID-19 can be similar (eg. fever & cough) and they are transmitted the same way, there are some key differences.

Influenza typically has a shorter incubation period (the time from the infection to when symptoms appear) than COVID-19, which means influenza can spread faster.

The risk of severe illness seems to be higher for COVID-19 than influenza, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). While the data so far shows that 4 in 5 cases of COVID-19 are mild (or even with no symptoms), the number of people with ‘severe or critical’ infection (needing intensive care, for example) could be higher than that of influenza.