The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is urging patients to get their flu vaccination earlier than usual this year, as the health system works to keep up with incoming coronavirus cases.
RACGP president Dr Harry Nespolon said protecting yourself and your family from contracting the flu with an influenza shot would assist in reducing the strain on health resources.
“If people don’t get vaccinated and an increasing number of flu patients and COVID-19 patients require urgent healthcare, lives will be put at risk.
“In a normal flu season, the RACGP advises people to wait until May to receive their flu vaccination, but with the spread of COVID-19, this is not a normal season.
“The last thing we want to see is patients infected with both influenza and COVID-19.”
Dr Nespolon said patients should speak to their GP to discuss the right flu vaccine for their age group.
“Older people, aged over 65 years, are advised to wait for a special flu vaccine for their more at-risk age group that provides enhanced immunogenicity.
“Patients will be able to get the special the Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccine (QIV) from their GP from mid-April.”
But he cautioned people needed to call ahead of their visit and not “just drop in” to their local GP clinic.
“This is important as it allows clinic staff to make sure patients don’t have any flu or COVID-19 symptoms before coming to the clinic, to ensure the safety of other patients, as well as GPs and staff.”
Epichealth Medical Clinic, which has practices in Ocean Grove, Langwarrin and Mornington, has announced it will facilitate drive-thru flu vaccinations over the next four to eight weeks.
Operations manager Jeremy Forrester said the initiative would roll out at two locations on the Bellarine this week, and that the inaugural service in Langwarrin attracted a whopping 2,500 callers.
“One’s happening up near the newer part of Ocean Grove near our clinic, and the other one is down in the older part of Ocean Grove.
“People have to book for the drive-thru shot because we need to check off that we’ve got the stock.
“If they’re new patients, they actually have to see a doctor first, and for private patients there’s a small fee. We need people to be patient. It will take some time to get through (on the phone) and for us to get the bookings in.”
Mr Forrester said patients stayed in their cars while a nurse and a doctor safely administered the injection.
He said the hope was this practice would safeguard patients, GPs and staff from falling ill.
“People don’t have to exit their cars and worry about sitting on seats that others have been on, we don’t have to keep changing protective equipment all the time – there’s a whole bunch of benefits for everyone.”
According to the National Immunisation Program (NIP) schedule, the following people can receive the flu shot for free this year:
Six months and over with certain medical risk factors
All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people six months and over
65 years and over
For more information, head to health.gov.au.