Health

South Australians urged to get your free flu shot now

South Australians are being urged to receive their annual flu shot, as all varieties of this year’s vaccine are presently accessible.

Approximately 600,000 vulnerable South Australians who qualify for a complimentary influenza vaccine under the National Immunisation Program (NIP) are being urged to get their yearly flu shot, as all brands of this year’s vaccine are now accessible. Additionally, owners of shacks along the River Murray are now eligible for a free immunisation against Japanese Encephalitis Virus (JEV), a deadly mosquito-borne disease prevalent in South Australia.

Eligible individuals can obtain the vaccines at various immunisation providers such as GPs, Aboriginal health services, participating pharmacies, and select local council and community clinics. For most, a single dose offers lifelong protection against JEV.

“The best protection is always prevention, whether it’s the flu, COVID-19 or mosquito-borne diseases,” Chief Public Health Officer, Professor Nicola Spurrier.

“With flu doses now delivered, we strongly encourage everyone to contact their GP or immunisation
provider to arrange to get their vaccine dose to help protect themselves, their family and the community.

“Separately, with South Australians now benefiting from hybrid immunity to COVID-19 through
immunisation and past infections, we believe the time is right to consult on changes to our current
mandatory vaccination policy.

“If adopted, staff members who choose not to take this simple step to protect themselves and others must
make an active choice to not be vaccinated and sign a declaration as such.”

All vaccine providers in South Australia have received their stock to administer the flu vaccine. Given that the flu season typically peaks between June and September in Australia, all South Australians are urged to schedule their vaccinations for themselves and their families promptly.

This year, South Australia has reported 1921 cases of Influenza, compared to 1,255 cases at the same time last year. Symptoms of influenza include rapid onset fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, sneezing, runny nose, sore throat, cough, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea in children. While most people recover within a week, lingering cough and fatigue are common. In severe cases, influenza can lead to pneumonia and even death.

The flu vaccine is available at no cost to those at higher risk of severe influenza and flu-related complications through the NIP. This includes individuals aged 65 and over, pregnant women, children aged six months to less than five years, all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from six months of age, and individuals with certain medical conditions.

Adults and children who are homeless and ineligible for the free flu vaccine under the NIP can receive it for free under the State Funded Influenza Program. Furthermore, individuals due for a COVID-19 booster are reminded that they can receive both their influenza and COVID-19 vaccines simultaneously.

Meanwhile, SA Health’s 40,000 staff have until May 10 to provide feedback on proposed changes to its mandatory vaccination policy.

Presently, under the Policy: “Addressing Vaccine Preventable Disease: Occupational Assessment, Screening, and Vaccination,” Category A and B workers are mandated to receive at least two doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccination to fulfill patient-facing roles.

COVID-19 vaccination will remain strongly advised for all SA Health personnel. If implemented, exemptions will only be granted if a staff member acknowledges, through a signed declaration, that they have been informed about the proven advantages of COVID-19 vaccinations and have actively chosen to waive these benefits.

Since 2021, the collective immunity to COVID-19 in South Australia has steadily increased to nearly universal levels, owing to vaccination, prior infection, or a combination of both.

Scientific findings indicate that hybrid immunity, acquired from both vaccination and previous exposure to COVID-19, offers the highest level of protection against severe disease, hospitalisation, mortality, and long-term COVID symptoms.

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