NSW Health is urging high risk groups to take advantage of a free flu vaccination.
A vaccine protecting against the four likely circulating influenza strains is free for people eligible under the National Immunisation Program.
Gunnedah Rural Health Centre business director Amelia Smith said this includes those who are pregnant, over 65 years of age, have some pre-disposing medical conditions, as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged from six months up to five years and 15 years of age and over.
”Those with pre-disposing medical conditions need to discuss their eligibility with their health practitioner,” Mrs Smith said.
“It is a priority for people with certain conditions to vaccinate for their health as they may see a more severe case of influenza.”
Mrs Smith said for those not eligible for the free service, most practices offer a private billing option for the vaccination.
The Gunnedah Rural Health Centre are hosting daily clinics for the vaccine.
Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Director Communicable Diseases, NSW Health, said it was vital for pregnant women to have the flu jab as they had an increased risk of hospitalisation, intensive care admission, pre-term delivery and possibly death if they caught the flu.
“The flu vaccination is very safe for expectant mothers and their babies and also provides protection in the infant’s early months,” Dr Sheppeard said.
“Pregnant women and people of all ages with chronic disease in Australia can receive the vaccination for free so I urge all eligible people to take up this opportunity to protect themselves and prevent unnecessary hospitalisation.
“Children born to vaccinated mothers have a reduced risk of contracting influenza in the first months of life.”
Dr Sheppeard said only about 29 per cent of pregnant women in NSW were vaccinated against the flu last year and only about half of those with diabetes were vaccinated despite being eligible for the free vaccine.
Less than 40 per cent of asthma sufferers in younger age groups took advantage of the free vaccine.
“We encourage all people to get the flu vaccine but particularly the more vulnerable groups who not only have a higher chance of getting the flu but are more severely impacted by it,” Dr Sheppeard said.
Influenza, commonly known as ‘the flu’, is a highly contagious illness.