Australians are being warned of a virus “triple threat” this coming winter, prompting health experts to again push the importance of vaccination.
Covid-19, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) have run rampant across northern hemisphere nations over their winter months, causing concern among the nation’s medical community.
After relatively low flu cases during the height of the Covid pandemic in Australia, a quarter-of-a-million cases were recorded in 2022, with 300 people dying, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
TerryWhite Chemmart Chief Pharmacist Brenton Hart said vaccines are important, even if we’re experiencing “vaccine fatigue.” Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling
Australian National University infectious disease expert, Dr Nick Coatsworth, said although healthcare providers are ready for an early flu season, accessibility and convenience is a major concern.
“There is a triple threat this year, with the combination of flu, Covid-19, and RSV, and the urgency for early protection is real,” said Dr Coatsworth, “as GPs and hospitals across the country stretch their capacity to record levels, the demand is only going to worsen if we all get sick.
“Many will still rely on their GPs to get vaccinated, but this may become problematic with already overstretched GP clinics and extended waiting times.”
Dr Coatsworth is urging Australians to use a pharmacy to get vaccinated in the lead up to winter, especially for flu and Covid injections.
ANU’s Dr Nick Coatsworth (L) and TerryWhite Chemmart Chief Pharmacist Brenton Hart. Picture: supplied.
TerryWhite Chemmart Chief Pharmacist Brenton Hart said while people might be experiencing vaccine fatigue, many carry the influenza virus unknowingly.
“People can unknowingly have the flu and gravely affect our most vulnerable,” said Mr Hart, “the more we suppress influenza through vaccination, the less opportunity the virus has to mutate and infect people.”
A Southern Hemisphere Influenza and Vaccine Effectiveness Research and Surveillance study from 2018 showed flu vaccination among adults reduced the risk of being admitted to an intensive care unit with flu by 59 per cent.
And a 2012 study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases found flu vaccination reduced childrens’ risk of flu-related paediatric intensive care unit admission by 74 per cent.