Less than a third of Penrith residents have received the flu jab despite this winter’s spike in illness.
Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District Public Health Director, Dr Victor Carey, is calling for Penrith residents to step up and get vaccinated with just 28.1 per cent of people aged six months and older in the area having rolled up their sleeve.
When it comes to why the vaccine uptake in Penrith is so much lower than the state average, Dr Carey believes it may come down to uncertainty regarding the potential seriousness of influenza.
“The important thing is, influenza is a potentially serious illness, it does result in hospital admissions and stays in intensive care, and we’re seeing that increasingly, and can also result in death,” he said.
With influenza currently circulating in the community, Dr Carey also emphasises the impact that someone’s decision not to get vaccinated can have on those around them.
“I think we know that the flu vaccine is effective in preventing infection, it’s also effective in preventing serious illness, and, really importantly, it’s important in reducing the risk of you, if you’ve got it, transmitting it to those that are closest to you,” he said.
“You having a flu vaccine doesn’t just prevent you getting it, but if you don’t get it, you can’t pass it on to your family, loved ones, or work colleagues, so it’s actually a community service, as well as a personal health service.”
It’s for this reason that Dr Carey is urging everyone to get vaccinated, regardless of age, or pre-existing conditions.
“Anyone over six months of age should be vaccinated, so families, the elderly, all people. It’s just a good thing to do, because flu effects everyone,” he said.
“Of course, people with pre-existing medical conditions or older people tend to have worse outcomes with influenza, and so they certainly should be vaccinated, but it’s the community in general that spreads it around. But, also, flu can have bad outcomes in seemingly healthy and fit people. No one really knows why, but it can impact randomly on people that you wouldn’t have expected.”
With the government having extended the free flu shot program for NSW residents, there’s no better time to get the jab.
“You can get it at a general practice, you can get it at pharmacies, for those in Penrith or the lower mountains, they can even go to the Penrith COVID vaccine clinic, which is run by Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District, that’s at the Somerset Specialist Centre at Kingwood. You can walk in, you can get the flu vaccine, you can get the COVID booster at the same time if you want to,” Dr Carey said.
Cassidy Pearce is a news and entertainment journalist with The Western Weekender. A graduate of the University of Technology Sydney, she has previously worked with Good Morning Macarthur and joined the Weekender in 2022.