Flu is circulating widely in NSW for the first time in two years, coinciding with continuing high numbers of COVID-19 cases. Flu and COVID-19 are both serious illnesses, but flu generally affects young children more than COVID-19. This winter we need to protect ourselves and our loved ones against flu, especially those who are at higher risk of severe illness, including children under five. The best way to protect yourself and your family against flu is to get the flu vaccine.
Flu in NSW
Flu is a highly contagious respiratory illness and is more serious than a common cold. The flu can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications such as pneumonia and bronchitis, which often require hospitalisation in the most vulnerable people, including young children and older people.
NSW Health has already reported a rapid increase in people testing positive for flu and a high number of hospitalisations. In the week 3-11 June 2022, 14 per cent of presentations to emergency departments required hospital admission. The highest proportion of those admitted to hospital were people aged 65 years and over and children aged under 5.
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant is urging parents not to put off getting their kids aged 6 months and over the flu vaccine as soon as possible.
“Flu is easily spread and potentially deadly. We are seeing an increase in hospitalisations of young children and sadly some are very unwell. The flu vaccine will help to protect your child from serious illness due to flu and offer plenty of protection in the winter weeks ahead.”
“Vaccinating young children helps to reduce disruption to their school attendance, sport and the other things kids love doing. It will also help to protect the rest of your family, friends and the whole community too.”
Why is the flu circulating widely now?
Over the past two years hardly anyone was exposed to flu due to COVID-19 restrictions, including the shutting of the international border, and so we didn’t develop any natural immunity.
Now that we are back travelling, socialising and doing the things that we love, more people of all ages are at risk of getting respiratory illnesses, particularly kids aged under 5.
Who can get the flu vaccine?
Everyone aged six months and older can get a vaccine.
Babies under 6 months are too young to get the flu shot. There are little things that you can do to protect your newborn like wash your hands regularly, ask family and friends not to visit if unwell and meet with people outdoors where possible.
The good news for pregnant women is that you can get a flu shot whilst you’re pregnant. It is safe and you pass the antibodies you develop from the vaccine on to your baby.
Free flu vaccinations are now available to all NSW residents over the age of 6 months until 17 July 2022, to boost immunity for the winter season. This is especially important if you or anyone in your family is at higher risk of severe illness from the flu.
Until 17 July 2022, free flu shots will be available at:
- GPs for everyone aged 6 months and over
- Pharmacies for everyone aged five years and over.
Please note: some providers may charge an administration or consultation fee. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if this applies to you. The flu vaccine is safe and FREE for kids under five. Millions of children around the world are now safely vaccinated. Vaccination has proven to be a reliable and effective way to give children’s immune systems a leg-up against the virus. For more information on NSW Government free flu vaccination, visit nsw.gov.au