Improving and Integrating Urban Indigenous Health Services

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As flu cases rise, vaccination critical for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

As influenza cases rise ahead of winter and Australia’s traditional ‘flu season’, the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) is calling on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to get vaccinated as soon as possible. IUIH Public Health Physician, Dr Jacqueline Murdoch, said influenza is particularly serious for Indigenous people.

“The flu can make people really crook, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are at a higher risk. It increases the risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as pneumonia and other serious illnesses. A lot of people end up in hospital because of the flu. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself, and your family and community from the flu.

“This year we want to make sure more of our community is protected, particularly groups at higher risk, including kids under five, older people, and anyone with a chronic health condition.

“Pregnant women also need to be vaccinated to reduce the risk of flu causing complications in their pregnancy, and to protect bub when they’re born before they can be vaccinated at six months old.

“We’ve seen a drop in the vaccination rate for kids, but the flu can make little kids really sick. It’s important for kids under five to be vaccinated,” Dr Murdoch said.

The influenza vaccine is safe and free for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. IUIH is encouraging community to get vaccinated now to ensure they are protected ahead of the peak ‘flu season’.

“We’ve seen the flu peak earlier than usual in the last couple of years. It also takes two weeks for the vaccine to take effect, so it’s important for people to get vaccinated as soon as possible so they are protected before we see the virus spread rapidly,” Dr Murdoch said.

IUIH Community Liaison Officer, Uncle Billy Gorham, regularly addresses misperceptions of influenza and the vaccine amongst community members.

“I hear all sorts of things about the flu. Some people think they’re young and healthy, or they take vitamin C, so they’ll be ok. That the flu isn’t bad. I always say they should yarn with their GP or someone at their local clinic, it’s important they know what’s true and how they can look after themselves and our Mob.

“I’ve already had my flu shot. I don’t want to get real crook, and I want to protect my family. We all live with people we care about, we don’t want to bring home the flu and make everyone sick. Even if you think you’re OK, think about those Mob you care about,” Uncle Billy said.

The influenza vaccine is available and free at clinics now. Contact your local clinic to book in.