Why a flu vaccination is so important this winter

The following advice has been prepared by Dr Katrina Lambert and Associate Professors Dr Deborah Gleeson and Dr Rwth Stuckey from the School of Psychology and Public Health.

La Trobe is partnering with Medibank Private to offer students a free influenza vaccination. Bookings are limited, so you are encouraged to register as soon as possible.

As winter approaches, many people are getting sick with COVID-19, flu and other respiratory viruses. The best way to keep ourselves and our families as healthy as possible is to get vaccinated.

The flu vaccine, while not perfect, is the most effective way to prevent influenza – reducing infection and transmission risk by 40-60% (CDC, 2022). Flu vaccination has also been shown to reduce severity of illness in people who get vaccinated but still get sick, reducing the risk of hospitalisation, ICU requirements, and death (Ferdinands et al., 2021). This year, it’s even more important to get the influenza vaccine as we are more vulnerable than usual, with lower recent exposure to the virus and uptake of influenza vaccines in 2021 as well as international borders reopening (Commonwealth of Australia | Department of Health, 2022).

Even if you believe your immune system is “strong” enough to fight off the flu without a vaccine – getting vaccinated yourself can protect people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions (Tanner et al., 2021). As a university community we all have a duty of care, staff and students and all others, to responsibly protect ourselves and others from what is a preventable disease.  

Of course, it’s also very important to have your COVID-19 booster shot if you haven’t already done so. 28% of Victorians who are eligible for a 3rd dose have not yet received it (Commonwealth of Australia | Department of Health, 18/5/22), but three doses are needed to increase protection against the Omicron variant and reduce risk of serious illness (Burckhart et al., 2022). And with new more transmissible omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5 (Tegally et al., 2022) now being detected in Australia, our health authorities are bracing for another surge in admissions to already highly stressed state hospital systems.

There’s no need to wait between getting the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 booster shot. And if you’ve had COVID-19, you can get a booster three months after your confirmed infection.

The same measures used to reduce the transmission of COVID also help reduce the transmission of the flu: wear a well-fitted mask indoors, social distance (when possible), practice good hand hygiene and stay home when sick or when you’ve been in close contact with a case.