Don’t forget the flu jab

While the spotlight is on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, local health professionals are warning against complacency around getting the flu vaccine as well.
Among them, state Pharmacy Guild committee member Kin Chong said local pharmacies were now stocked up with the flu vaccine.
“In the past we’ve encouraged people to start getting their flu vaccine from mid-April but this year we’re encouraging people to get it a little earlier for the flu vaccine,” said Mr Chong who co-owns Castlemaine’s Terry White pharmacy.
A minimum 14-day gap is required between getting the flu jab and getting a COVID-19 jab, noted Mr Chong who in recent days was present as federal Bendigo MP Lisa Chesters helped demonstrate the importance of getting a flu jab – by getting one herself.
Currently expecting the birth of her second child within weeks, Ms Chesters particularly considered it important to get the flu vaccine as soon as possible because of her pregnancy.
The MP said she wanted to encourage other pregnant women across Mount Alexander to make sure they got the flu jab.
“My main message is that the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine are two different vaccines,” Mr Chong said.
“And you still need the flu vaccine.”
Getting the flu vaccine will help people avoid contracting flu this season, thereby also avoiding worry they may have COVID-19, and with it the testing required for suspected coronavirus cases.
Mr Chong said last year Australia had one of the lowest flu vaccination rates on record, partly due to the spinoff benefits associated with health practices aimed at preventing COVID-19,-but also due to the high numbers of people who got vaccinated against flu last year.
More than three million flu vaccinations were estimated to have been provided to Australians by their community pharmacist.
“Last year we had one of the best flu seasons in history,” said Mr Chong whose pharmacy administered a large number of flu jabs, including to the entire workforce at large local employer, Don KR.
“We vaccinated all the Don KR workers and we’ll be doing the same this year, and hopefully expanding to other businesses as well,” the local pharmacist said.
His pharmacy has lodged a formal expression of interest with the federal government to enable it to administer the COVID-19 vaccine.
While this has yet to be confirmed, Mr Chong said all of his pharmacists had now been trained to administer the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Once the doses hit the shelves we can begin administering it and it will most likely be the AstraZeneca vaccine,” he said.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation is advising that people to be included in later phases of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout should receive their influenza vaccine as soon as it’s available, and then receive their COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them.
The Guild is also encouraging people to talk to their local pharmacist about availability or booking for COVID-19 vaccination once available.

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