Date published: 
24 June 2022
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

ALEX CULLEN:                      

Australians are being urged to roll up their sleeves for the COVID booster shot, as fears of a particularly bad winter for our health sector becomes a reality. Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly, joins me now from our nation's capital, Canberra. Professor, good morning to you. Thanks for being with us.

A particularly harsh flu season, I know because my- one of my kids has had it. How important is it people stay on top of both the COVID boosters and the flu jab?

PAUL KELLY:                         

Well, winter is definitely with us, Alex, and the main message for your viewers today is to go back to rolling up, and rolling up those sleeves for those shots. And so, anyone who's eligible for a third or, for many people, a fourth dose, of the COVID vaccine should go and get that. But also the flu vaccine, very important now, and right across Australia, that's been made free for most people, but particularly those who are vulnerable of severe flu. And that includes young kids, actually. And so, that's a difference to the COVID message. We need to increase that flu shot as well.

The other thing that I think we should really talk about is the availability of oral medications, antiviral medications for COVID. There's two of those available now, you can get it on a script from your GP. And now's the time, if you're in those vulnerable groups, to have a COVID treatment plan. Go and talk to your GP about that, or look on the website for further information about who would be eligible.

ALEX CULLEN:                      

So those antiviral medications - take those, as opposed to, going to hospital?

PAUL KELLY:                         

Yeah. It's not an alternative to vaccination, vaccination is still the most important thing to make sure you're up to date on that. But for people - particularly older people, people with chronic diseases, people with immune suppression, those are more vulnerable of severe COVID - it does affect that hospitalisation rate. It does actually protect people from dying of COVID. And so, really important that we have a plan because, the sooner you get that after you've- if you contract COVID, the better outcome it will be.

ALEX CULLEN:                      

You mentioned kids going to hospital, and lots of them, before. We know Karl's young daughter Harper, just two years old, rushed to a hospital a couple of days ago with a respiratory illness. Are hospitals coping?

PAUL KELLY:                         

Look, they're coping. It's certainly a strain at the moment from flu and COVID, a double whammy, if you like, but also absenteeism of staff who are also being affected. So that's the challenge at the moment, as we often see in winter with flu, but having flu and COVID around does do that. We have seen quite a lot of children admitted to hospital with flu and other respiratory illnesses, as we do at this time of year, usually during winter. But challenging times.

Flu vaccine protects kids, and the take up of flu vaccine in that under-five age group, really, really important to do. And I really encourage parents who are watching the show to do that. I would also add, if you are pregnant, it's now a time to protect you, it also protects kids in that first six months of life after pregnancy, the flu vaccine. So it's a really good time to get that, and your COVID vaccine, both are safe in pregnancy.

ALEX CULLEN:                      

Professor, great advice. Thanks for coming on this morning.

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