Flu, COVID-19 could still converge, say banners

New data show that more than 40% of respondents who had a flu shot earlier this year did so for reasons relating to COVID-19

Findings from the Amcal and Guardian flu survey 2020 highlighted the increased demand for the flu vaccine sparked by the pandemic, the banner groups say.

By early March, health authorities were warning that a convergence of the COVID-19 pandemic with the 2020 flu season could be disastrous, encouraging Australians to seek flu vaccination and permitting pharmacists to vaccinate a wider group of people, including more children.

Now, Amcal and Guardian say 42% of people who had a flu shot were at least partially motivated by COVID-19.

Initial supplies of vaccine ran out in many states in March, earlier than in previous years, with a 179% increase in flu vaccinations administered in Amcal and Guardian pharmacies throughout March and April compared to 2019.

However, according to Head of Amcal and Guardian, Kurt O’Brien, Australia may be yet to see the peak of the flu season. He is now urging Australians who were not able to get a flu shot earlier in the year to book online now.

“The first shipment of flu vaccines flew out the door and we know there would’ve been many Australians who missed out earlier this year,” said Mr O’Brien.

“It’s important to know that as the majority of Australians have been social distancing over the last few months, we may be yet to see the peak of the flu season.

“With COVID-19 restrictions now starting to ease in most states, we are seeing people getting out and about more which may increase the risk of the seasonal flu spreading.”

As at the beginning of Monday, 13 July, there had been a total of 20,823 laboratory confirmed notifications of influenza in Australia for 2020.

Of these 7,105 were in NSW and 5,876 in Queensland, with 4,531 in Victoria.

In previous years, by the end of July 2019 there had been 70,150 cases around the country that year; in 2018 there had been 3,963 and in 2017, 33,115.

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