NSW Health is urging pregnant women, the elderly and other high-risk groups to take advantage of a free flu vaccination – now available from GPs – ahead of the winter flu season.
A vaccine protecting against the four likely circulating influenza strains is free for people eligible under the National Immunisation Program. This includes those who are pregnant, over 65 years of age, have severe asthma, diabetes and heart conditions, as well as Aboriginal people aged from six months up to five years and 15 years of age and over.
“The flu vaccination is very safe for expectant mothers and their babies and also provides protection in the infant’s early months,” Dr Sheppeard said.
“Pregnant women and people of all ages with chronic disease in Australia can receive the vaccination for free so I urge all eligible people to take up this opportunity to protect themselves and prevent unnecessary hospitalisation.
“Children born to vaccinated mothers have a reduced risk of contracting influenza in the first months of life.”
Dr Sheppeard said a lot of people in vulnerable groups didn’t get the vaccine last year.
“We encourage all people to get the flu vaccine but particularly the more vulnerable groups who not only have a higher chance of getting the flu but are more severely impacted by it.”
Influenza, commonly known as ‘the flu’, is a highly contagious illness. The virus is transmitted easily from person-to-person via droplets and small particles produced when infected people cough or sneeze, and through hand contact with contaminated surfaces. Influenza is characterised by a sudden high fever, cough (usually dry), headache, muscle and joint pain, feeling unwell, and sore throat.