30 May 2024

​People aged 65 and over are being strongly urged to book in now for their free influenza vaccine, as respiratory illnesses continue to rise across NSW.

The latest NSW Health Respiratory Surveillance Report, to be released today, shows influenza activity is rapidly increasing in NSW, with COVID-19 transmission also increasing to high levels.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said in the week ending 25 May, there was a 27 per cent increase in influenza notifications, and a 23 per cent increase in COVID-19 notifications, compared to the previous week.

“While everyone aged six months and over is urged to get their influenza vaccine as soon as possible, it is particularly important for those at higher risk of severe illness from the virus,” Dr Chant said.

“Influenza immunisation rates aren’t where they need to be. Less than half of people aged 65 and over in NSW have received their influenza vaccine this year and we really need to see that number go up, especially as people in this age group are among those most at risk of severe illness.

“We expect the number of influenza cases to quickly increase in the weeks ahead so now is the time to get vaccinated if you haven’t already done so.”

The influenza vaccine is free and readily available for those at higher risk of severe illness from influenza. It is available through GPs for any age group, as well as through pharmacies for everyone aged five years and over.

Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network (SCHN) Infectious Diseases Paediatrician Dr Phil Britton said influenza notifications are continuing to increase across all age groups, particularly among young children aged three to four years.

“In recent weeks, we have seen influenza cases rising among young children and we want to remind parents the best thing they can do to keep their kids well this winter, and to reduce the risk of them being hospitalised due to influenza, is to ensure their children receive a flu vaccine,” Dr Britton said.

​Those considered to be at higher risk of severe illness from influenza who are eligible for free vaccination include:​

  • people aged 65 and over
  • children aged six months to under five years
  • Aboriginal people from six months of age
  • pregnant women
  • those with serious health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, immune disorders, severe asthma, kidney, heart, and lung disease.

There are some simple steps you can take to help protect yourself and your loved ones from respiratory viruses like COVID-19, influenza and RSV, including:

  • Stay up to date with your recommended influenza and COVID-19 vaccinations
  • Stay home if you are sick and wear a mask if you need to leave home
  • Get together outdoors or in large, well-ventilated spaces with open doors and windows
  • Avoid crowded spaces
  • Consider doing a rapid antigen test (RAT) before visiting people at higher risk of severe illness
  • Talk with your doctor now if you are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 or influenza to make a plan about what to do if you get sick, including what test to take, and discussing if you are eligible for antiviral medicines
  • Don't visit people who are at higher risk of severe illness if you are sick or have tested positive to COVID-19 or influenza
  • Practice good hand hygiene, including handwashing.​