Tasmanian doctors are bracing for a more severe flu season, with young people among those encouraged to get a vaccine early as they wait for protection against COVID-19.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners on Wednesday recommended all young people over the age of six months get their annual influenza vaccination as soon as it becomes available.
Newstead Medical practice partner Dr Toby Gardner said its car park flu clinic would recommence on Sunday, April 18, and warned people shouldn't become complacent.
"We know the flu season is probably going to peak between June and September this year," he said.
"We are expecting it to be a much worse flu season than last year, because there is no real immunity to flu persisting from last year - because there wasn't really any flu.
"That's why we figure getting people vaccinated as soon as possible this year, will just afford us better protection coming into winter now that we are all mixing and travelling a bit more."
Influenza rates across Australia in 2020 were at an all-time low, with just 168 reported cases in Tasmania compared to 3137 the year before.
However, RACGP president Dr Karen Price described the twin rollouts of the influenza and COVID-19 vaccinations as an "enormous logistical exercise" and warned Australia would need a new approach in 2021.
"That's why we are urging patients in later phases for the COVID-19 vaccine to get their flu shot as soon as it is available, and then get their COVID-19 vaccine when they can," she said.
"If you're young and healthy you might think you should be standing back and waiting for the most vulnerable patients to get their flu shots first. In fact, we want these patients to do the opposite."
More than 4500 general practices are already taking part in Phase 1b of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, which has been significantly impacted after a change in medical advice for the AstraZeneca jab.
The program is planned to rapidly scale up and roll out to more practices.
However, the federal government has abandoned its initial goal to give all Australians a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of October.
Dr Gardner said while doctors would normally recommend people not get their flu vaccine too early, this year would different - particularly among those waiting longer for a COVID vaccine.
"We are already seeing that with circulating viruses going around at the moment," he said.
"The Pfizer COVID vaccines are not likely to arrive before the fourth quarter of the year.
"That's where we're saying - 'don't wait for that'. At least go out and get this one now so you are covered for when flu hits."
Dr Price said patients should contact their usual general practice about receiving a flu vaccine when it is available in April.
Newstead's car park clinic is open to all patients aged over 10, with both government-funded vaccines for eligible patients and private vaccines available.
The influenza vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine should be administered at least 14-days apart.
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