An outbreak of the coronavirus has led to a sharp drop in the number of Australians who were being vaccinated for the new seasonal flu strain.
But with more than half the nation being covered by the new coronaviral vaccine, the vaccine has yet to reach the rest of the country.
In the past fortnight, there have been five new cases in NSW, including one in a school.
One of those cases involved a 25-year-old woman who travelled to Australia with her family from Hong Kong, where she had travelled to for a medical treatment.
“I was quite worried about her health because I was in Hong Kong for two years and she was going to get sick there,” she said.
The woman was diagnosed with acute respiratory syndrome, which can be deadly if left untreated.
She had been on the flu vaccine for about four months and was on it as recently as November and December, and was not vaccinated in between, she said, adding she was concerned about the risk of complications.
Dr. Mark Hockaday, an infectious disease expert at the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, said it was “quite a rare event” for people to catch the new strain.
He said the vaccine had not been available in Australia in many places, so it was likely that most people who had been vaccinated were unaware of the virus.
“(The) vast majority of people who were vaccinated had taken their vaccines at home, and it’s quite unlikely they were aware of the risks involved,” Dr. Hockay said.
“It’s quite rare that people catch the flu when they are travelling.”
Dr Hockaidt said the new virus, which was found to be more active in the air than the previous pandemic strain, was likely to be harder to track down.
If it was not detected early, it could spread quickly, especially in people who have travelled overseas, he said.
“I think the real risk of the influenza virus is the potential for the spread to reach other parts of the world and infect people who don’t have access to the flu vaccination, so you have a real danger that this pandemic will spread.”
The NSW Health Department said it had issued an advisory to those travelling to Australia, urging them to get vaccinated if possible.
Health authorities have also been urging people to get their children vaccinated if they are young.
People can buy influenza vaccines at pharmacies in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.
Topics:vaccines-and-immunity,health,hospitals-and,nsw,government-and.gov.au,nhl,nhs-superintendent-general,nsh,federal—state-issues,australia,sydney-2000,port-augusta-5700,wa,south-austraana,act,syrian-arab-republic,canberra-2600,syriac-annex,new-zealandFirst posted March 30, 2020 07:47:04Contact Nicola GarlowMore stories from New South Wale