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North Queenslanders urged to get their flu jab

Published 13 May 2021

Northern Queensland Primary Health Network (NQPHN) is urging North Queensland residents to protect themselves against influenza (the flu) by getting their flu vaccination.

A patient receiving their flu vaccination at Sydney Street Medical, Mackay
Sydney Street Medical GP Dr Shuren Taylor with a patient getting his flu vaccination in Mackay

This year, both the flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccines are available and it is important that people speak to their vaccination provider to manage the timing of both vaccines.

It is recommended that the flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine should be administered at least 14 days apart.

NQPHN Chief Executive Officer Robin Whyte said it is important that residents don’t get complacent when it comes to getting vaccinated against the flu each year.

“During much of the flu season last year, we were all protecting ourselves against COVID-19 by staying home, socially distancing where possible, and practising increased hygiene and handwashing,” Ms Whyte said.

“These behaviours helped to stop the spread of not only COVID-19, but also flu viruses in the community, with an 88.8 per cent decrease in lab confirmed influenza cases in the NQPHN region in 2020, compared with the previous year.

“This flu season, social distancing restrictions are being relaxed, which may allow flu viruses to recirculate, even if they were hardly seen in 2020.

“Flu is a highly contagious viral infection and vaccination is our best protection against it, so it’s important to not lose sight of making sure we all get our flu jab each year.

“Residents should contact their immunisation provider to make a booking to get their vaccination.”

The 2021 flu vaccine is available from GPs, community health clinics, Aboriginal Medical Services, pharmacies, and other immunisation providers in North Queensland.

Under the National Immunisation Program, free flu vaccines are provided to groups who are at higher risk of complications from flu such as children aged six months to less than five years, all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months and over, people with certain medical conditions that increase their chance of severe influenza and its complications, pregnant women, and people aged 65 years and over.

Sydney Street Medical General Practitioner Dr Shuren Taylor said that it’s important for people to get their flu jab each year, but this year the timing of their vaccination needs to be managed alongside the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.

“Influenza viruses can evolve and mutate, allowing new strains to emerge each year, against which people may not have immunity,” said Dr Taylor.

“This is why it is so important that people get their flu shot every year.

“Getting vaccinated against the flu not only prevents themselves from getting ill, but also helps to limit the spread of the virus to others and protects vulnerable people who cannot get vaccinated, such as infants and people with weakened immune systems.

“Receiving the vaccine from April allows protection from the flu to develop well ahead of the peak transmission period, which usually falls around July and August.

“When you book in for your flu vaccination, remember to tell your vaccination provider or clinic if you have received the COVID-19 vaccine, and when you received it.

“This will help them to plan your appointment, as the influenza vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine should be administered at least 14 days apart.

“Both the flu virus and the virus that causes COVID-19 are circulating this year, and even though they can have similar symptoms, it’s important to be vaccinated against both viruses.

“Remember to always stay at home if you have any symptoms at all and get tested.”

To locate a vaccination provider in your area you can search the National Health Services Directory.

Residents can also use the COVID-19 Eligibility Checker to find out if they are eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Last updated: 13 May 2021