Date published: 
15 April 2020
Media event date: 
1 April 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

NATALIE BARR:

We're joined now by Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd. Good morning to you. Why is the flu jab so important this year?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Well good morning Nat and thank you for letting me talk about the influenza vaccination program. It's absolutely essential this year that everybody in Australia gets immunised against influenza. We cannot afford to have an influenza season like we had last year, with large numbers of people getting very sick and requiring hospitalisation and in some cases, requiring admission to intensive care. As we know, we need to preserve all of our resources for the potential that if we need them for people with COVID-19. So please, get your flu vaccine this year. I know it's going to be very complex for people saying, well I'm in social isolation, I'm not allowed to go outside. How do I get my immunisation? You are allowed to travel to your pharmacy or to your general practice under the restrictions which are in place. But please, before you do so, ring your general practice, make sure that they have the influenza vaccine available for you. And make an appointment time so that you get there and you're not waiting with lots of other people. And also, please, if you have symptoms, if you have a fever or respiratory symptoms, do not leave your home. Contact your medical advisers for advice. Your flu vaccine can wait until you're better.

NATALIE BARR:

Is there a difference between the flu jabs that you get at the chemist and the one's you get at the doctor?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Very good question. It depends on which state and territory you're in. We have a national immunisation program which provides free immunisation to pregnant women, to all people aged over 65, to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over six months of age, to many people with chronic conditions, which put them at increased risk of influenza. And also, for the first time, for all children in Australia, aged six months to five years of age. Now the free vaccines will be available in some pharmacies, but not all across the country. They should be available in all general practices and in places where people would normally get their vaccine. But we do have a challenge this year, Nat, because many people in the past have got their vaccine through their workplace. And of course, many people are not in their workplaces at the moment. So, they'll have to make alternate arrangements to get their flu vaccine. I think the most important message though, is yes, we want everybody to get vaccinated, but we have a couple of months for this to take place. Influenza usually doesn't start in Australia until around June to September. And so please, don't panic, don't rush, let's do this in an ordered way. Ring your general practice or ring your pharmacy, make an appointment to make sure you're going there at a time that is safe.

NATALIE BARR:

Michael, a lot of people say every year, I'm not getting the flu vaccine because I had it five years ago and I got sick or it [audio skip] prevent it. They have all these reasons why they shouldn't. What you say to them this year?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Well this year it's more important than ever. Those myths are exactly that - they're myths. Each year, the flu vaccine contains different strains to protect you against different strains of influenza, particularly looking at what have been the strains that have been particularly prominent in the northern hemisphere during their recent winter. So you're getting different protection each year. It's absolutely essential that we keep people well. We can't afford to have the doubling up of people who are unwell with influenza and unwell with COVID-19 that we've seen occurring in Europe. And what we do know is that many people who were infected with both, have very bad outcomes. So please, please, protect yourself, protect your family, protect the rest of our community.

NATALIE BARR:

Okay. Michael Kidd, thank you very much for your time.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Thank you.

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