The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has urged Australians to book in early for flu vaccinations this year. While the RACGP recommends annual flu vaccination, 2020 is a slightly different situation. Because of COVID-19 resource drain, and the risks for community members who contract flu and COVID-19, early vaccination is recommended. As we don’t have a vaccine for COVID-19, flu vaccination can be thought of as a COVID-19 risk management precaution.

In a press release on March 31 this year, RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon said:

“Protecting yourself and your family from the flu with a vaccination now will help reduce the strain on health resources from COVID-19. If people don’t get vaccinated and an increasing number of flu patients and COVID-19 patients require urgent healthcare, lives will be put at risk.”

Many healthcare providers were on early alert for flu. Last year was one of the worst flu seasons on record, with cases climbing from February instead of May. Fortunately, the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System’s March’s rates suggest we are on track to maintain a traditional flu season. This reduction is no doubt partly due to social distancing rules currently in place across Australia.

Who should receive flu vaccinations?

An April 2 media release from the Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians outlined that aged care staff, any visiting workers, and any contractors, must have their flu vaccinations by May 1. Those who fail to comply could be fined, although enforcement may be complicated if there are vaccine shortages. State authorities should be contacted for specific requirements, especially regarding contraindications. Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy adds:

“The only absolute contraindication to flu vaccination is a history of previous anaphylaxis following vaccination, those who have had Guillain-Barré Syndrome following previous flu vaccination and people on check point inhibitor drugs for cancer treatment.”

Where do I get immunised?

Most RCFs are required to run their own flu vaccination programs, so staff at these facilities will be immunised through work. The Australian Department of Health has a list of people who should be vaccinated every year against the flu. These cohorts, listed on the DoH’s National Immunisation Program, receive their vaccinations free. In New South Wales, public health units typically prioritise NIP vaccine recipients, ensuring they are vaccinated before the general public. Many state governments are also increasing delivery methods. For example, Victoria is allowing pharmacists to give approved vaccinations away from their normal location, and Western Australia are making vaccinations available for free to primary school-aged children.

If you have any questions or concerns about vaccinations in Australia or New Zealand, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Bug Control pride themselves on providing relevant, up-to-date, comprehensive resources to help prevent infections in aged care. We would be happy to answer any questions you might have on vaccinations or infection prevention and control concerns.