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Canberrans urged to get flu vaccination before winter

ACT Chief Minister and Minister for Health, Katy Gallagher, receives her flu vaccination from clinical nurse Joyce Ho-Chinn.

ACT Chief Minister and Minister for Health, Katy Gallagher, receives her flu vaccination from clinical nurse Joyce Ho-Chinn. Photo: Elesa Kurtz

Free influenza vaccines provided every year by the ACT government could halve the number of hospital admissions this flu season, provided Canberrans come on board.

Influenza and pneumonia kill on average 2600 Australians every year and put another 65,000 in hospital.

In 2013, there were 567 cases of influenza reported in the ACT, which was a 15 per cent decrease on 2012.

Neither year was as severe as 2009, when Canberra had about 700 cases in one month alone.

ACT Health acting director-general Paul Kelly said taking advantage of the free influenza vaccines was very important for at-risk Canberrans.

He said research had shown the number of ACT hospital admissions could be halved if everyone in vulnerable groups was vaccinated.

''People that have underlying illnesses, as well as the elderly and young children [are at risk],'' he said.

''The other group we're concerned about are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people who have underlying illnesses, and pregnant women.''

In Canberra, the influenza vaccine is free to everyone who is considered in the at-risk group. Dr Kelly said flu vaccinations were completely safe and it was impossible to get sick from having your shot.

''People sometimes do feel 'fluey' after a vaccine, but that isn't the flu. That's the flu vaccine clicking in. That's your immune system working,'' he said.

''What the flu vaccine has is the inactive types of three flu viruses. A dead virus doesn't cause you to be sick,'' he said.

ACT Chief Minister and Health Minister Katy Gallagher led the way on Monday, getting her flu shot from nurses at Canberra hospital.

Ms Gallagher said although the vaccine was not free for parents of young children and some healthcare and community workers, they should still consider getting vaccinated. ''It is relatively inexpensive and can help to protect the higher-risk groups and the individual from getting flu,'' she said.

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