The number of flu-related deaths fell drastically in 2020, with Department of Health data showing Australia had just 36 influenza-related deaths during the flu season up to October – compared to 943 in the same time the previous year. Overall, flu numbers dropped from over 300,000 (the worst season on record) in 2019 to just 21,215 in 20201.
Closing schools, maintaining physical distancing and boosting hand hygiene have all contributed to the massive decline in flu diagnoses and deaths. Significantly, increased levels of influenza vaccinations also played a role. 18 million flu vaccines were made available in Australia last year compared to just over 13 million vaccines in 2019.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly had the following to say about influenza vaccinations in a press conference2 last year:
“Influenza vaccination will be more important than ever given the ongoing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is anticipated that demand for influenza vaccines will remain high next year.“Professor Paul Kelly
Victoria’s COVID-19 normal status means offices and shops are open. Even though masks are compulsory in many indoor settings, the rules may be relaxed further with zero community transmission, which points to a possible resurgence in flu cases in 2021.
In a normal year, we would recommend you obtain flu vaccination as early as possible, and then consider a booster shot during winter. Given COVID-19 we are reviewing that recommendation and will provide further information once it comes to hand.