This winter, health professionals are worried that we could see a huge increase in the number of flu and other respiratory illnesses in addition to COVID-19 cases.
Wentworth Healthcare, provider of the Nepean Blue Mountains Primary Health Network (NBMPHN), is urging the community to get vaccinated against the flu and to ensure that their COVID-19 vaccinations are up to date, by getting their booster or winter dose before it's too late.
Wentworth Healthcare CEO Lizz Reay said: "Over the last two winters international and state borders have been mostly closed, and last winter we were all in lockdown. In addition, we had mask mandates and social distancing which meant that we didn't see the usual number of flu cases over the past two years."
Now that we have opened up and are getting back to our normal way of life, we are likely to see an increase in flu and other respiratory illnesses, in addition to COVID-19 infections this winter, Ms Reay said.
"To protect yourself and your family, we are urging people to get the flu vaccine as soon as possible and to ensure that their COVID-19 vaccinations are up to date," she said.
"This means getting your kids over five years vaccinated for COVID-19 if they haven't been, getting a COVID-19 booster if you are due, or getting a COVID-19 winter dose, if you are eligible."
The additional COVID-19 winter dose vaccine can be given from four months or longer after an eligible person has received their first booster dose, or from four months after a confirmed COVID-19 infection, if this occurred since the person's first COVID-19 booster dose.
People who are eligible for COVID-19 winter dose are: adults aged 65 years and older; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years and older; eesidents of aged care or disability care facilities; and people aged 16 years and older who are immunocompromised.
"In addition, people 70 years and over, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years and older, should also consider getting the free pneumococcal vaccine this winter. I encourage these groups to talk to their GP about this vaccine," Ms Reay said.
Free flu vaccines are available to certain eligible people from mid-April under the National Immunisation Program. Flu and COVID-19 vaccines are available from GPs, pharmacies, community health clinics, Aboriginal Medical Services, and other vaccination providers in the area.
"I'd like to say to everyone in our community, be your own health hero this winter and protect yourself by getting vaccinated," Ms Reay said.
To find out more you can talk to your GP or visit the website at nbmphn.com.au/health hero.