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

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Well, Australians are being urged to get their flu shot as soon as possible, with doctors hoping to reduce the pressure on our hospitals during the coronavirus crisis.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Michael Kidd joins us now from Canberra. Professor, thank you so much for your time this morning. We're normally told to wait until May for the vaccine. Should we be going early this year?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Yeah, the vaccine season has started today, Ally. So we're encouraging all people in Australia this year to get the influenza vaccine. Normally many people don't, but this is the year when everybody should be absolutely doing it. Free vaccination is available to all pregnant women, to all people aged 65 and over, to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over six months, to many people with chronic health conditions, and also for the first time, for every child aged between six months and five years. However, we want to encourage everybody to get the vaccine and now is the time to do it, during April and May. Normally, influenza appears in Australia from June to September and as you've said, it is really important this year. Every year we get people with influenza who get very sick, they end up in hospital, sometimes they end up in intensive care. We just cannot afford for that to happen in Australia this year. We know that we may have increased pressure on our hospitals and intensive care beds with COVID-19. We can't afford to have people there with influenza as well because it is preventable. We also know that people in the northern hemisphere who were infected with both influenza and COVID-19 often became very, very ill indeed. So please, everybody, protect yourselves, protect your family, protect our community.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

So, normally the advice would be to wait just a little longer to get the flu vaccine, but you're changing that this year because you want people to be protected in the next couple of months?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Absolutely. We brought the period forward only by a couple of weeks. Normally we start national vaccination around the middle of April, so it's only a couple of weeks early but we're doing it because of the national emergency which we're all facing. And, as I've said, it's important for everybody to get on board with this.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Professor, we're seeing a slower growth rate of coronavirus here in Australia at the moment. Do you worry then that people will think alright, we're getting on top of this, and could become complacent?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Look, I am worried but I don't think that's going to happen. I have been amazingly impressed and heartened by how the Australian public has adapted and adopted so quickly the restrictions which have been put in place - the physical distancing measures which are there to protect us all. We have seen over the last couple of days a slight decline in the number of new positive tests and that's really good to see and we hope that will continue over the weeks ahead. But this is not the time to take our foot off the brake. We have to continue doing all the measures we're doing - hand hygiene, physical distancing, staying at home, and particularly if you have fever or you have respiratory symptoms, contacting your doctor.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

That decline can just be the fact that fewer tests have been done, right?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

That could be the case but, Karl, I don't think it is the case. Australia actually has one of the highest testing rates of all Western countries around the world - higher even than South Korea which is put forward as being the exemplar for much of the world. So we've conducted over a quarter of a million tests across Australia over the last month and we're continuing to test. We do have a limitation in the number of test kits which are available across the country and that is being addressed. But we are testing people with symptoms, people- and people who have come in contact with people with COVID-19 and we believe that most people are being picked up.          

ALLISON LANGDON:

Alright, that's interesting though - a quarter of a million tests and about 4,500 positive results. Professor, thank you so much for your time this morning and very good advice. Race out and get that flu shot. Thanks.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Thanks both. Make sure you get yours too.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Yeah, we'll do that today. You're right, but we're a country of 25 million, quarter of a million is a lot and it's higher than anywhere else or comparable, comparably higher. But it’s still… That's why we need more testing so that we know exactly what's going on out there in terms of those trends. It is a lot of obstacles we're facing at the moment.

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