The Mirror News

Let’s talk about ‘flu

Foster and Toora Medical Centre

IT’S been awhile since the last article (and thanks for the prompt by a few readers!). I guess similar to the rest of you, we too get fatigued by the pandemic and all its spin-off subjects. Although of course now, if the pandemic doesn’t fatigue you, then certainly the election and politics will! 

But before we get into COVID again, lets’ talk about flu.

The Medical Centre successfully delivered over 950 vaccinations through the drive-through Saturday clinics over 3 consecutive weeks. The weather gods were kind as were Rotary and Lions supplying BBQ refreshments in the waiting area carpark. We have now given over 1400 in 4 weeks to the ‘over 65s’ in 4 weeks which compares favourably to last year when we gave 1400 in the whole year. If you haven’t had yours, book in through the medical centre. We are doing mini flu sessions at the clinic as well as opportunistic vaccinations with consults. Some respected authorities are (again..) predicting a bad flu season.

COVID is of course rife in Australia at present. I suspect everyone knows someone who has or has themselves had COVID now.

Presenting a COVID-19 clinical update at the RACP Congress last Friday, ATAGI co-chair Professor Allen Cheng estimated 40% of the Australian population had contracted COVID-19 in the “last couple of months”. 

“There aren’t many overseas countries that have more COVID-19 than we have at the moment,” he said.

We need to be careful in analysing what is being said (and not said) however.

For example, from ATAGI, this sounds bad: “The latest statistics, from the University of Oxford tracker, show Australia is recording 1764 cases per million people a day, making it the highest known COVID-19 case rate globally”. But the important emphasis is in the words ‘highest known’, as many countries have given up reporting cases.

Never-the-less, this is sobering news for a country who did so well earlier in preventing widespread transmission and deaths.

He went on: “The mortality rate from the virus is also high, with the nation now averaging 38 deaths each day, equating to about 1.5 deaths per million people”.  Although what he doesn’t say is the case/fatality ratio in Australia is about 10% of the rate in the USA, that due to vaccination rates and initial good health care measures, Australia’s death rates are amongst the lowest in the world. We are also finally seeing the new antivirals impacting favourably in treatments.

All of this should help prevent any form of complacency or feeling that we are on top of the virus. To put that death number in some sort of context, and to illustrate how immune we have got to the figures, I like this analogy: a Boeing 737-800, which is the most common domestic plane used in Australia, carries 184 passengers and crew.

So, we’re reporting more than a 737 crashing every week. And yes, that airplane is full of older people (for we all know most younger vaccinated people only suffer a mild-moderate flu-like illness), but still, that is a full 737 of premature deaths and should really still make us stop and think.

So far, some 7600 Australians have died from COVID-19, according to Department of Health figures and more than twice as many deaths were recorded this year than in the previous two years, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. 

In January, doctor-certified deaths due to COVID-19 were the second most common cause of death after cancer. The message is that omicron may be a milder version but it still kills.

There is little doubt that without vaccinations we would be seeing more deaths than we are. Yes they were developed for delta not omicron, and yes they are not great at preventing people getting COVID, but the figures certainly support the fact that they are preventing a lot of the serious consequences of getting COVID. How different would the local Probus cluster have turned out prior to vaccinations? Be sceptical when the politicians say that we have ‘world leading’ vaccination rates. On the world table we are respectable, but not in any analysis world leaders! Nationally, close to 95.6% of people aged 16 or over have received at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. And more than 80.3% of adolescents aged 12 to 15 years have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. Close to 53% of children aged 5 to 11 years have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and nearly 38% have now received two doses. Good numbers but not world-leading at all.

So what can you do with winter coming? 

Apart from getting the flu shot, and ensuring you’ve had your booster shot, if you are eligible, get the winter COVID dose. This is a 4th dose, 4 months after the booster (3rd) dose (or from 3 months after a confirmed COVID infection,). Only certain groups are eligible at present:

  • people 65 years or older 
  • residents of an aged care or disability care facility 
  • people who are severely immunocompromised
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples aged 50 years and older. And be careful. Consider measures to limit exposure particularly if you are elderly or infirm. Masks may be not mandated widely any more but are a simple measure to help protect you. Resist the temptation to become complacent.


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