People aged 65 and over urged to book in for free flu vaccine as cases surge across NSW

People aged 65 and over are again being urged to book in now for their free flu vaccine, as the virus continues to surge across the state.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said the latest NSW Health Respiratory Surveillance Report shows in the week ending 8 June 2024, there was an increase of more than 25 per cent in people diagnosed with influenza compared with the previous week.

“Flu is rapidly increasing across the state. In the past week alone, presentations to our emergency departments increased by almost 22 per cent for people with influenza-like illness. Dr Chant said.

“We are expecting the flu season will be around for several weeks to come, so now is the time to book in for your free flu vaccine to get the vital protection you need.

“This is particularly important for people aged 65 and over who are at higher risk of severe illness from influenza, and unfortunately our vaccination rates for this group still aren’t where we need them to be.

“At present, just half of people 65 and over (52.4 per cent) in NSW have received their flu vaccine.”

With influenza, COVID-19 and RSV all circulating in the community, we continue to remind the community to avoid visiting high-risk settings including hospitals and aged care facilities if they are experiencing symptoms of respiratory illness.

Vaccination is the best protection against infection and severe disease. Everyone, but particularly those at increase risk of severe disease, is urged to get vaccinated now. By getting vaccinated you also help protect those around you.

The influenza vaccine is free and readily available for those at higher risk of severe illness from influenza. It is available through GPs for any age group, as well as through pharmacies for everyone aged five years and over.

Those considered to be at higher risk of severe illness from influenza who are eligible for free vaccination include:

  • people aged 65 and over
  • children aged six months to under five years
  • pregnant women
  • those with serious health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, immune disorders, severe asthma, kidney, heart, and lung disease.

There are some simple steps you can take to help protect yourself and your loved ones from respiratory viruses like COVID-19, influenza and RSV, including:

  • Stay up to date with your recommended influenza and COVID-19 vaccinations
  • Stay home if you are sick and wear a mask if you need to leave home
  • Get together outdoors or in large, well-ventilated spaces with open doors and windows
  • Avoid crowded spaces
  • Consider doing a rapid antigen test (RAT) before visiting people at higher risk of severe illness
  • Talk with your doctor now if you are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 or influenza to make a plan about what to do if you get sick, including what test to take, and discussing if you are eligible for antiviral medicines
  • Don’t visit people who are at higher risk of severe illness if you are sick or have tested positive to COVID-19 or influenza
  • Practice good hand hygiene, including handwashing.