With the winter flu season upon us, the delays required between administering the influenza and COVID-19 vaccine creates a larger health risk to the elderly and vulnerable.

Despite, safe and effective vaccines available for both high-risk and elderly Australians, many remain unvaccinated against both influenza and COVID-19.

Whilst the Department of Health currently advises Australians wait at least 14 days between receiving a dose of seasonal flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine, the Immunisation Coalition is calling for both to be given on the same day. This comes after the United States and the UK made a similar decision.

Immunisation Coalition board member and Chair of their Scientific Advisory Committee, Professor Robert Booy is concerned that Australia is falling behind other nations in their handling of the vaccination program.

“Australia is behind other countries for a combination of reasons, including complacency, hesitancy and inadequate organisation. Australians have become complacent about COVID, thinking ‘it’s not here today, so it won’t be here tomorrow’ and that just isn’t the case,” Professor Booy said.

Recent guidance from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation reveals circumstantial consideration may be given for co-administration or near administration (within days), of both vaccines during an outbreak.

“We can protect our most at-risk Australians by direct immunisation of them against COVID-19 and influenza, along with immunising their closest contacts.

“In winter, the rate of influenza goes up substantially, so people who aren’t already protected, may need to get concurrent immunisations to get faster protection,” Professor Booy said.

Despite community fear of side effects, there is no evidence that co-administration or near administration with an influenza vaccine increases the likelihood of adverse effects or reduces the efficacy of either vaccine.

As part of optimising the protection of at-risk Australians against COVID-19 and the seasonal flu, the Immunisation Coalition, Australia’s leading voice in whole-of-life immunisation, is asking that consideration be given to the extension of concurrent vaccinations in Victorian aged care homes and more widely across Australia.