Health & Wellbeing

Don’t forget about flu – with winter approaching, flu vaccination numbers still low

With only twelve days until winter, now is the time for Australians who haven’t had their flu vaccine in 2021 to speak to their health care professional, with 2021 flu vaccination rates lagging on 2020 numbers.

Seqirus – CSL’s vaccine division – is reminding Australians not to forget about flu – while 2020 was a mild year for flu because of social distancing, border restrictions and record vaccinations, every flu season is unique and vaccination programs remain one of the most effective ways to help protect against the flu.

According to FluTracking, fewer than one in two people working with patients have had their flu vaccine in 2021 – compared with almost more than double that number this time last year (47.6% vs 88.6%). Only 45% of Australians 18-64 have had their flu vaccine – compared with 71.8% at the same time last year. 66% of Australians 65 and older have had their flu vaccine – compared with almost 90% at the same time last year.

Professor Terry Nolan, public health physician at the Doherty Institute, says getting the flu vaccine remains as important as ever in 2021, given the unpredictability of flu in each year.

“It’s never easy to predict what kind of flu season is ahead of us,” said Professor Nolan.

“It’s not uncommon to see flu ‘rebound’ following a mild season – we have seen this in recent years in Australia. While this doesn’t automatically mean we will have a terrible flu year in Australia, it does mean we should be alert and taking every precaution necessary to protect against the flu. When we look at the borders opening and people mingling more than they were last year, it’s only natural that there will be increased circulation of viruses such as flu.”

Last year saw a record number of people get vaccinated against flu, and this year supplies of flu vaccines are in a strong position to ensure every Australian who wants to be vaccinated against flu will be able to access a flu vaccine. Official advice is that a 14-day window is advised between COVID-19 and flu vaccinations.

The impacts of flu should not be underestimated. 2019 was one of the worst seasons on record with almost 300,000 notifications of laboratory-confirmed influenza to the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS) and more than 800 flu-related deaths reported.

Dr Jonathan Anderson, Seqirus Head of Medical Affairs Asia Pacific, said the peak flu season in Australia usually occurs between July and September and there is still time to act to ensure that flu numbers stay as low as possible.

“Achieving high flu vaccination coverage is a key population health strategy for helping to reduce pressure on our hospitals and health care system,” said Dr Anderson.

“Flu vaccination remains as important as ever – while high-rates of vaccination and social distancing had driven down influenza rates last season, we can’t be complacent about the potential impacts of flu.”

Seqirus is the only onshore manufacturer of flu vaccines in Australia, and has recently invested $800 million to build a new world-class influenza vaccine manufacturing facility to be located in Melbourne. For 100 years, Seqirus and CSL have been on the front line in the fight against influenza in Australia, and in 2021, we continue to build on this history of innovation by delivering influenza vaccines to patients.

Please speak with your healthcare professional if you have any questions about flu vaccination, including whether it is suitable for you.

  • Flu vaccination rates are significantly lower than last year – fewer than one in two Australians working with patients have had their flu vaccine in 2021 – compared with almost more than double that number this time last year (47.6% vs 88.6%)
  • The Australian Government recommends flu vaccination for everyone aged 6 months and older
  • Every flu season is different – and it is hard to predict what will happen each season