Health & Wellbeing

Health experts warn the COVID vaccine will not protect Australians against influenza

• Research reveals 37% of Australians aged 18-49 do not plan on vaccinating against the flu

• Influenza kills on average between 1,500 and 3,000* Australians annually

• Experts warn the threat of influenza is still high and a COVID-19 vaccination will NOT protect against the flu

• Australians in the later phases of Covid rollout should consider getting their flu vaccination now before their Covid-19 vaccination.

Australian health experts are encouraging Australians to recognise the dangers of influenza and the importance of vaccinating against the highly infectious and dangerous virus.

Research findings from an Australian-first study into pharmacy customer perceptions around influenza and COVID-19 vaccinations would indicate that 18-49 year old’s do not understand the risks associated with influenza with 37% of Australians in this age group not planning to vaccinate this year against the flu.

The study commissioned by one of Australia’s leading retail pharmacy networks TerryWhite Chemmart and conducted by global agency dentsu, was designed to better understand customer’s intentions on being vaccinated for the flu and COVID-19 viruses.

TerryWhite Chemmart Chief Pharmacist Brenton Hart said the results highlighted the need for further education around influenza and for people to recognise that vaccination remains a critical component in their arsenal against influenza.

“Influenza is an incredibly infectious and serious respiratory disease, killing on average between 1,500 and 3,000* Australians annually and yet it is easily preventable with a safe and effective vaccine,” said Mr Hart.

“Only 59% of adults aged 18-29 and 61% of 30-49 year-olds surveyed said they planned on getting an influenza vaccination, while 74% of the both age groups nationally said they would get a COVID-19 vaccination once available to them.

“The research results affirm that Australians over the age of 65 are most likely to get both a COVID-19 vaccination and a flu vaccination, with 88% advising they are planning on getting a COVID-19 vaccine once available, and 85% advising they are planning on getting an influenza vaccine this year.

“2020 saw fewer case numbers and fatalities relating to influenza reported, which could be attributed to record influenza vaccinations conducted around the country combined with social distancing and improved hygiene practices.

“However, as restrictions continue to ease and social distancing continues to relax, I suspect we could see a higher incidence of flu this season,” said Mr Hart.

Immunisation expert Professor Robert Booy said that despite the low rates of influenza infection reported in 2020 the population was still at risk.

“If we let our guard down, flu can come back with a vengeance,” said Professor Booy.

“This year, there is an added risk people may falsely think the COVID-19 vaccine will protect them against the flu, however, the COVID-19 vaccine will not protect you against the flu.

“Influenza and COVID-19 are both dangerous, but separate viruses and an influenza vaccination is the best way to prevent the flu,” he said.

Almost seven million high priority workers and aged care staff and residents will be eligible to receive their first COVID-19 vaccination in Phase 1 of the roll out which started in February. Nearly 700,000 Australians in Phase 1a will receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine which needs to be given in two doses, at least 21 days apart.

The remaining 6.1 million Australians in the Phase 1b group and the 13+ million in Phases 2a and 2b will receive the AstraZeneca/University of Oxford. This vaccine also needs to be given in two doses, four to 12 weeks apart. Currently the health department has advised that Phase 2a of the roll out will commence in May 2021.

People in phase 1a for COVID-19 vaccination should receive the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it is available to them, and then receive their influenza vaccine.

People in later phases for COVID-19 vaccination should organise to receive their influenza vaccination before their COVID-19 vaccination.

*Statistics cited by immunisation expert Professor Robert Booy in NewScientist on 1 May 2020 by the Australian Academy of Science.

About the research

The fieldwork for this project ran over the period of 04/02/2021 to the 24/02/2021.

The sample source consisted of Australians aged 18+ that go to a pharmacy at least once a month [regular pharmacy goers], with n=2004 respondents collected.

Respondents answered an online survey and were sourced from a panel provider through stratified random sampling. The respondents opted-in to answer the survey and were incentivised by the panel provider for their participation. The quotas set were based upon Roy Morgan data for Australians aged 18+ that attend a pharmacy at least once a month. Weighting was performed after the fieldwork to the quotas to ensure accurate representation of regular pharmacy goers.

About Dentsu Australia

Dentsu Intelligence is a service team of strategic researchers and analysts who provide bespoke consumer research studies, as well as the analysis and the strategic implication of primary and secondary data sources.

Respondents answered an online survey and were sourced from a panel provider through stratified random sampling. The respondents opted-in to answer the survey and were incentivised by the panel provider for their participation. The quotas set were based upon Roy Morgan data for Australians aged 18+ that attend a pharmacy at least once a month. Weighting was performed after the fieldwork to the quotas to ensure accurate representation of regular pharmacy goers.

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