Flu prevention important for all cultures

NSW’s multicultural communities are being urged to get their flu vaccinations to prevent a repeat of last year’s horror flu season that caused more than 640 deaths.

Minister for Multiculturalism Ray Williams and Member for Seven Hills Mark Taylor recently launched an influenza awareness campaign at Westmead Hospital for culturally diverse communities as part of the NSW Government’s $22.7 million immunisation program.

Mr Williams said NSW, like the rest of the country, had one of the worst flu seasons on record last year.

“Hundreds of people died as a result of flu-related illnesses, including two children,” Mr Williams said.

‘Vaccination is your best protection against flu but simple actions are also vital to prevent the spread of infection, such as keeping your hands clean, coughing and sneezing into your elbow, and staying home when sick.”

Multicultural NSW chairman, Dr Hari Harinath OAM said the NSW Government is delivering a $3.5 million program offering free flu shots to children aged between six months and five years to boost their immunity.

“NSW already has some of the best childhood vaccination rates in the country and this free jab will go even further to protect children from potentially deadly flu infections,” Dr Harinath said.

Other vulnerable groups including pregnant women, most Aboriginal people, people aged 65 and over, and people with chronic medical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes are eligible for a free flu vaccination under the National Immunisation Program.

Flu vaccines are available at most GPs, Aboriginal Medical Services and, for children under five years of age, from council and community health clinics that provide vaccination services.

Director Communicable Diseases at NSW Health, Dr Vicky Sheppeard, said the best time to have the flu vaccine is in April or May to ensure protection doesn’t wane before the flu season peaks.

The World Health Organization advises that this year’s flu vaccine is a better match to the circulating strains and will offer higher protection,” Dr Sheppeard said.

“There are also two new stronger flu vaccines available for people aged 65 and over to provide better protection to this vulnerable age group.”

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