Australian Minister for Health Greg Hunt urges compulsory flu vaccinations in aged care homes. This is a week after the government recorded an alarming number of flu-related deaths in nursing homes last month. Apparently, the elderly are more prone to contracting flu because of their weakening immune system. This, in turn, makes the aged care workers vulnerable to catching the virus themselves.
At present, all Australians 65 and up are entitled to a free flu vaccination yearly. The Aged Care Council, on the other hand, supports the government in making flu vaccinations in aged care homes compulsory. The aged care facilities must provide their aged care workers a flu shot before next year’s flu season. This way, they can reduce the risk of incidents of flu-related deaths among their residents. Plus, it is necessary to not just care for their residents but also to provide base protection to their workers.
Tasmania Deaths, A Key Reason for Mandatory Flu Vaccinations In Aged Care Homes
There is a valid reason to push for mandatory flu vaccinations in aged care homes. This is according to Dr. Mark Veitch. Veitch said that there were 21 deaths in Tasmania nursing homes from January to September of this year. Seven of these cases happened in early September. While there are other factors causing the death, the complications of influenza are very well accounted. The numbers represent 4% of deaths among residents with flu across Tasmania.
The government and pharmaceutical companies assure the public that all available flu vaccines in the country are safe.
Tamiflu, An Additional Necessity Besides Flu Vaccinations In Aged Care Homes
Apart from requiring flu vaccinations in aged care homes, the government also encourages them to stock Tamiflu. With 17 aged care facilities currently dealing with outbreaks, giving flu shots in aged care homes is a high priority. However, post-vaccination measures are still necessary to reduce, if not totally avoid, flu-related deaths.
According to Pharmacist and Tasmanian President John Dowling, Tamiflu could be a lifesaver to nursing homes. He clearly stated that while the medicine does not totally cure flu, it does shorten its course. This can lessen the incidence of passing this contagious disease amongst the elderly and their carers. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of Tamiflu in Australia. The unprecedented demand is the reason for its unavailability in pharmacies.
The Importance of Flu Vaccinations In Aged Care Homes
While the government investigates the outbreak, it expects everyone to comply with the compulsory flu vaccinations in aged care homes. The flu shot is more important than most people realise. Yes, it does not make anyone immune to the disease, but it is definitely worth getting.
For one, somebody with the flu shot is less likely to get the disease. Second, getting the vaccine also reduces the risk of passing flu to others. Third, when a vaccinated person contracts flu, s/he can take medications at home. Otherwise, those who didn’t get the vaccine are more prone to hospitalization due to flu complications like bacterial pneumonia.
On the downside, deciding when to get the flu shot seems like playing the lottery. There is a chance of either having it too early or too late. Hence, everyone needs to know when the flu season is in their area.
Meanwhile, here are the qualified people to take the FREE flu shot this year:
- Those aged 65 and over
- Torres Strait and Aboriginal people aged 6 months and below 5 years old
- Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people aged 15 and over
- Pregnant ladies
- Those who are 6 months and older with diagnosed health conditions like asthma, heart or lung disease, immune system disorders, and diabetes. These can contribute to the easy acquisition of flu.
Some Things to Note About Flu Vaccinations In Aged Care Homes
Misinformed aged care workers may not be happy about the mandatory flu vaccinations in aged care homes. This is because some of them think that there is a “live virus” in the vaccine. Well, to appease everyone, there is NO “live virus” in any flu vaccine in Australia. The government and pharmaceutical companies assure the public that all available flu vaccines in the country are safe. The initial symptoms after getting the flu vaccine are just an autoimmune system response. The vaccine works in such a way that it introduces components of the flu disease so the body recognizes when the real thing strikes.