'Protect yourself early': Doctor’s flu jab warning amid coronavirus outbreak

Sarah Carty
Features & Style Editor

An Australian doctor has urged people to get the flu vaccine early this year to reduce the risk of people contracting both influenza and COVID-19 at the same time. 

Dr. Amandeep Hansra, a GP at Bondi Doctors and CEO of Caligo Health, a healthcare consulting company, said while the flu shot doesn’t protect you from COVID-19, it protects you against other strains of influenza which can cause similar symptoms. 

An Australian doctor has urged people to get the flu shot early this year. Photo: Getty Images

While we’re usually advised to get the flu jab from mid-April onwards, due to coronavirus outbreak worldwide Dr. Hansra recommends not delaying your shot this year as we don’t want to overload an already stretched healthcare system with a stream of people who are infected with both influenza and COVID-19.

“If we have people with COVID-19 taking up beds and if you have a very severe case of the flu - and we do get deaths from influenza every year - there may not be a hospital bed available or the resources may not be available,”  Dr. Hansra told Yahoo Lifestyle. 

“So even more important this year than any other year is for people, particularly in vulnerable groups but I actually recommend it for everyone, to be getting the flu vaccine as soon as possible.”

According to Dr. Hansra, studies have shown that the maximum effect of the flu vaccine lasts for about three to four months so usually you don’t want to get it too early or it can wane before the peak August influenza period. 

However, Dr. Hansra said because of what’s going on this year we need to act quickly to make sure the flu season doesn’t impact too many people.

“We really need to protect people as early as possible and not delay until when we usually do just because we’re going to get that spike of people in hospital and demand on resources. So I’d say protect yourself early this year just so you don’t end up with both,” she said. 

Dr. Hansra recommends people individually discuss whether or not they’ll need a booster shot later in the season with their own GP.  

Dr. Hansra has said people need to get the vaccine early so we can avoid overloading an already overstretched healthcare system. Photo: Getty Images

How will doctors be administering the flu jab this year?

Due to the coronavirus outbreak Dr. Hansra said they’re going to be consulting with patients over the phone or video conferencing but obviously they can’t administer flu shots that way. 

So what a lot of clinics are doing is setting up seperate flu vaccine sessions within their practice, where they’ll get all the flu shots patients to come in at the same time so they’re not mixing with people who might have COVID-19 symptoms. 

“At our practice in Bondi we have specific flu sessions and you just get patients to come in and we can be fully protected knowing that we’re prepared and we can wear the right protective equipment and we can just give people flu shots and get them out the door as soon as possible,” Dr. Hansra said. 

Dr. Hanra urged people to call their doctor’s practice to find out how they’re going to be giving patients the flu jab this year.  

“Don’t just turn up, I strongly advise people to not turn up at their practice and ask ‘Can I have the flu shot?’,” she said.

Talk with your GP to see if you'll need a booster shot later in the season. Photo: Getty Images

Who can get the flu shot?

Dr. Hansra says that generally everyone should be getting the flu jab, especially this year. 

Children between the ages of six months and five-years-old can actually get it for free through the national immunisation program, as can children aged five years and over with medical risk conditions. 

People over the age of 65, pregnant women, people who’ve got a chronic illness and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months and over can also avail of the free vaccine. 

But according to Dr. Hansra “whether you’re high risk or low risk I think everybody’s at risk with the current climate”

Generally speaking, the only people who should not get the vaccine are those who have had an allergic reaction to it in the past. 

Others may have to pay between $15 and $25 to get the flu vaccine. 

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