Wimmera doctors are urging patients to get their influenza vaccination from their GP earlier than usual to reduce strain on the health system caused by COVID-19.
The call comes as the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Harry Nespolon said with COVID-19 spreading across Australia, this year it was more important than ever for people to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
"Protecting yourself and your family from the flu with a vaccination now will help reduce the strain on health resources from COVID-19," he said.
"If people don't get vaccinated and an increasing number of flu patients and COVID-19 patients require urgent healthcare, lives will be put at risk.
"In a normal flu season, the RACGP advises people to wait until May to receive their flu vaccination, but with the spread of COVID-19, this is not a normal season."
In Horsham, doctors at the Wimmera Medical Centre have started administering flu vaccines.
Practice manager Heather Parker said the clinic was taking precautions for patients arriving for their vaccination.
"Doctors have been administering the vaccines following all the screening guidelines," she said.
"We're screening people at the front door. We're making people wait in cars. That's how we're doing it. We're not running mass clinics like we would have done in the past."
"I'd recommend anyone, with exceptions around complications or contraindications, to get a flu shot."
Doctors are urging over-65s in particular to receive a vaccination, with higher hospitalisation and death rates from influenza compared with younger adults.
Between 1997 and 2016, 80 percent of influenza reported deaths in Australia were in people aged 65 and over, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Rural Doctors Association of Australia president John Hall warned coming down with COVID-19 and the flu at the same time would be the "perfect storm".
"You really don't want to come down with COVID-19 and the flu at the same time - so getting the flu vaccination this year really is a must for you and your children," he said.
Dr Hall also cautioned: "This is not a vaccine for COVID-19, but it will protect you against getting the flu."
"It also means you will be much less likely to need to attend your doctor or health service with the flu, adding to the load of what is likely to become an overstretched health system in the months ahead," he said.
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