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Aussies downplay seriousness of influenza

The latest wave of influenza could be hitting Australians when their defences are down.

COVID-19 lockdowns, travel restrictions and limited social interaction mean Aussies have had reduced exposure to the flu over recent years, and a survey commissioned by one of the nation’s leading vaccine manufacturers suggests a level of complacency may have crept in.

Australian vaccine manufacturer Seqirus, asked 1000 adults aged 18 and over about their attitudes to the flu.

It found less than half of Australian adults think flu is a very serious condition that can lead to death in vulnerable people.

And one in 10 say they are not intending to get a flu vaccine, while 11 per cent are undecided.

Leading infectious disease expert Professor Robert Booy says Australians have had so little flu for so long that the reawakening of the virus could be quite troublesome.

“For the last two years, we’ve had next to no flu, and vaccination rates have been low as well,” Prof Booy said.

“As a consequence, the level of community protection has dropped significantly.

“I’m concerned about the correlation between people who do not think that flu is serious and those who do not intend to get vaccinated.”

The data also showed a significant generational gap, with baby boomers more likely than younger generations to say they plan on getting the flu vaccine in 2022.

Prof Booy also said there was the possibility recent calls for Australians to “treat COVID just like flu” has had the unintended consequence of portraying flu as a milder disease.

“People need reminding that we’ve had some bad flu seasons in the past.” he said.

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