Health workers are stepping up calls to make the flu vaccine free across the country, saying governments need to think of the future flu peak as an impending “catastrophe” as it coincides with high levels of Covid infection.
Queensland already made the jab free amid a sharp rise in flu incidence in the state, while the New South Wales government taking steps to follow their example amid unprecedented demand for its ambulance services and hospitals.
Hospitalizations double every week in Queensland, while NSW, Victoria and central Australia are also experiencing major outbreaks of two circulating influenza strains, H1 and H3, with infection rates particularly high among young people.
Deputy Director Mir Health Organization Professor (WHO) Jan Barr said vaccination should be free to show the severity of the early flu season.
Only 24% of the adult population and 9% of children under five received a flu vaccine.
“The Covid vaccination has set a precedent … it sends a message that the government considers it a priority,” Barr said.
“We need something to motivate people to get vaccinated this year, we have high rates, and there’s no point in waiting three or four weeks to come.”
Bar said the flu season this year came a month or two earlier than usual, and the peak is expected “long before” August.
“There is a gap of two years if [we] have not been exposed, and we know that immunity is reduced, especially if you are not vaccinated, ”he said.
“What we don’t usually see is a lot of kids in hospitals, but a lot of it has to do with a lot of it. There will definitely be deaths, and the pressure on the hospital has undoubtedly increased. “
The vice-president of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Chris Moy, said hospitals were in a ‘potentially desperate’ situation when Australia entered its first flu season with Covid.
Almost 11,000 cases Influenza was recorded in Australia before May 8, compared to 240 cases over the same period last year.
“Obviously we’re worried,” Moi said. “This is the first full flu season in three years while our hospitals are already full.”
In the northern hemisphere, the flu season was moderate, but dragged on with another spring peak. My said that at this stage the cases of the two circulating strains are growing “like a straight line” but were about 12% less than in 2019.
“There has been a shift,” he said. “It seems to be in the younger age group, 15 to 24 years old, where the highest score is usually in the older age group.
“It could be young people after blocking Covid or features of the virus itself, but there is a chance that there will be young people in hospitals with the flu who may even die.”
My said it’s important to get vaccinated “as much as possible” and replenish the vaccine from Covid.
A study published in Nature has shown that a flu shot can help protect from Covid as it boosted your natural immune response.
My said that making flu vaccinations for Australians is “an important issue”, especially because young people are not covered by the National Immunization Program.
Under the program, the vaccine is free for children over 65, children under five, pregnant women, aborigines and residents of the Torres Strait Islands and people with chronic diseases.
«[Making it free] it can be much less than the cost of beds, and the flu vaccine seems to be quite effective, ”Moi said.
“I consider it layered, part of your hospital has to take care of normal care, in winter it covers the flu, now we have Covid on top of that displaces normal care.
“It’s a pretty scary prospect. We need to think about it in terms of disaster. ”
Acting Secretary General of the NSW Federation of Nurses and Obstetricians Shay Candish said staff “are very short of staff and lack of resources” to fight the flu even before Covid-19.
«[Flu season] already puts a significant strain on the work of members, ”she said.
“We are dealing with a continuous combination of Covid infections and flu … we continue to lay off staff … we are incredibly concerned.”
14,812 cases of influenza have been reported in New Wales, and 3,349 people have sought emergency care with flu-like illness. У Victoria, there were 10,663 cases. South Australian Health reported that between 1 January and 14 May this year there were 727 flu notifications, compared to 12 cases over the same period last year.
Kandish said there were hospitals “Beyond possibilities” to the expected peak and expanding the availability of free influenza vaccination to ease the pressure.
Karen Price, president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, said the circulating strain appeared to be “particularly aggressive and virulent” and supported free vaccines for all.
“Across Australia, we need to significantly increase the spread of influenza vaccines, and we have no time to lose, especially given the strain on our healthcare system at the moment.”