Vaccinate against flu and keep hospitals clear for COVID-19

WITH the coronavirus threat escalating, Toowoomba residents should take care of their health to ease pressure on the hospital network.

That's the message from pharmacists who are urging the pubic to get the 2020 flu vaccine early.

The 2019 influenza strain infected more than 313,000 Australians and killed 902, presenting a significant challenge to health professionals.

Toowoomba pharmacist Hawi Asfha said the 2020 strain would be equally potent.

"We have been selling out of cold and flu medicine since last year," the Terry White Chemmart pharmacist said.

"Demand for the medicine slowed over summer but it did not stop."

"My colleagues in Brisbane and at the Gold Coast are telling the same story.

"That usually indicates we are in for a serious season."

Supplies of the Afluria Quad 2020 flu vaccine for the 2020 flu season are seen at TerryWhite Chemmart Grand Central. Picture: Kevin Farmer
Supplies of the Afluria Quad 2020 flu vaccine for the 2020 flu season are seen at TerryWhite Chemmart Grand Central. Picture: Kevin Farmer

Mr Asfha is already reporting a spike in people vaccinating against the flu and said others should get in early to stop the virus taking hold in the community.

The Australian Department of Health found people aged 65 years and older accounted for 40.4 per cent of influenza-related hospitalisations last year.

Children aged 15 years and younger accounted for 28.6 per cent of hospitalisations, and people aged between 16-64 years, 31 per cent.

The flu spreads easily, with infected patients contagious 24 hours before they develop symptoms, and they are infectious for a week after.

Mr Asfha said protecting a patient from the flu would preserve their immune system and reduce the chance of contracting COVID-19.

Importantly, it will keep people away from GP clinics and our hospitals.

Mr Asfha said COVID-19 was impacting the global supply chain for medicines.

He reports shortages of paracetamol and common antibiotics, from strong demand overseas.

"Our suppliers are saying they cannot keep with the demand," Mr Asfha said.

He has also run out of alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

"We cannot get any, and we only have a limited supply for our staff to use in store."

These shortages mean residents must do what they can to stay healthy.

Mr Asfha recommended a return to the basics.

"Make sure you have plenty of vitamin C and natural immunity boosters like echinacea, and get plenty of rest," he said.

"Exercise a little, but not too much."