Increased handwashing, self-isolation and quarantine haven’t just flattened the COVID-19 coronavirus curve in Australia.
These measures also seem to have blocked a horror flu season.
In February, Australia’s influenza numbers sat at just over 7,000. Two months later, following weeks of compulsory orders intended to curb the spread of COVID-19, influenza numbers sat at 95 — the lowest in at least a decade. Last year’s figures saw close to 19,000 infections by April and ultimately the worst flu season in Australian history.
Health experts have explained that Australia was on course for a disproportionately high flu year in early 2020.
“We were thinking, here we go, it could be a big one,” Sampson, the chief executive of the not-for-profit Immunisation Coalition, told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Sampson highlighted the critical role government handwashing campaigns, the use of masks and early access to flu vaccines have played in achieving the low figures. She hopes the success of these measures against the flu will see them utilised each year during the nation’s peak flu season — which kills, on average, between 1,500 and 3,000 Australians annually.
“I think many people are going to be looking back on this and wondering what we can do to do more during the flu season,” Sampson added.
An additional three million flu vaccination shots.— Greg Hunt (@GregHuntMP) April 20, 2020
A current total of 16.5 million.
A commitment to keep Australians safe not just through Coronavirus, but through the flu season as well. pic.twitter.com/YR4otUve6G
To help keep flu numbers down, and ease pressure on an already stressed health system, Australia has ordered an additional 3 million flu vaccines.
“We have been able to secure an additional 3 million flu vaccination shots. That means we are going from 13.5 million flu vaccinations to 16.5 million,” Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt said in a press conference. ”Whilst flu vaccinations are not a vaccination against coronavirus, they are an important mechanism for reducing the rate of flu in our community — for protecting individuals and protecting health workers.”
Hunt urged all Australians — particularly the elderly, young children and those with compromised immune systems — to protect themselves by getting vaccinated against influenza at their local GP, pharmacy or immunisation provider.