Here’s what we really know about the 2023 flu season

For the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, influenza was largely absent from Australia due to restrictions. Cases dropped exponentially, and more than a year passed without any recorded deaths.

Lately, some media coverage has suggested that we’re in for a severe flu season in 2023.

According to the Department of Health and Aged Care’s latest figures, we have recorded more than 16,000 confirmed flu cases already this year. We haven’t seen a figure this high since May 2022.

While we’re already seeing higher rates compared to this time last year, flu season is known to throw curve balls making predictions tricky. The scale and severity of 2023’s season is still unknown

What can we expect in 2023?

The start, length and severity of flu seasons vary every year. But we know that community immunity will be less than what it was in pre-COVID times. That’s because of fewer flu infections during COVID restrictions plus lower influenza vaccine uptake in recent years. 

Only about 40% of those eligible were vaccinated against flu in 2022, according to the Australian Immunisation Register database.

The severity of the coming Australian flu season will also be influenced by the types of virus strains that circulate. The effectiveness, uptake and timing of vaccinations and the degree of remaining herd immunity will all be essential indicators going forward.

As seen in the past, flu cases usually began to rise in April/May, peaking from June to August. Before waning in September/October. It’s important to be vaccinated in April/May before influenza becomes common.

Vaccine complacency has kicked in

New research suggests that many in the community remain complacent about the flu’s potential consequences. 

As reported by RACGP, the Australian Attitudes to Influenza Index’s online survey completed by 1017 adults, “one third (33%) said the flu is only ‘somewhat serious’, and that people can get very sick and be hospitalised, but they do not think they can die from it. While a further 14% said the flu is ‘not very, or not at all, serious’.”

Though the survey’s full results are yet to be publicly released, these findings are alarming, given already climbing flu numbers and the potential for severe illness, hospitalisation in particularly severe cases and even death.

Vaccinations for community protection

Now is a good time to start preparing to get your flu vaccine and they are readily available at GPs and pharmacies. 

Vaccination is our best defence against influenza and is recommended from the age of 6 months

Different vaccines are also available for people over 65 years of age, who are at a higher risk of developing serious flu complications compared with young, healthy adults. This increased risk is due in part to changes in immune defenses with increasing age. Hence, they require a different kind of influenza vaccine.

Heathershaw’s flu clinic is open with appointments open all the way through to 12th April.  Further sessions will be announced progressively, with appointments to be available during the upcoming school holidays.

As flu and COVID-19 vaccines can be co-administered, joint appointments for flu and COVID-19 boosters vaccines are also available during some of our sessions.

The cost for each flu shot is $19.99. Of course, COVID-19 vaccinations are free.

Book now online if you haven’t received your annual flu vaccination already.

Opinions or facts expressed within the content have been sourced from various news sources. While every effort has been taken to source them accurately, the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates do not take any responsibility for errors in these sources. Patients should not rely on the facts or opinions in the content to manage their own health, and should seek the advice of an appropriate medical professional. Further, the opinions or facts in the content do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates. 

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