Doctors warn of a triple pandemic ahead of flu season


Doctors are urging Australians to double-up on their flu shot and COVID-19 booster at the same time ahead of the flu season with a triple pandemic expected to hit.

Bupa Health Insurance Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony MacDermott said based on medical modelling from the northern hemisphere’s recent flu season, it was forecast the flu season would arrive earlier than expected this year and be worse than last year with a higher rate of hospitalisations. 

Dr MacDermott encouraged people to get vaccinated before the end of May to ensure they were protected against the upcoming flu season. 

“We’re anticipating a perfect storm of flu, COVID-19 and other flu-like viruses to come together this winter,” Dr MacDermott said.

The best protection will always be prevention, and our advice to people who are due for their COVID booster is to get their flu shot together with their COVID booster ahead of the winter season.

Dr Tony MacDermott, Bupa Health Insurance Chief Medical Officer

“Each virus is different, affecting individuals in different ways, so it’s important to get both shots - and they’re perfectly safe to receive on the same day.” 

Dr MacDermott said it was expected flu trends in the United States, where hospitalisation rates were significantly higher than the year before, would be mirrored in Australia.
“The higher risk of being hospitalised with the flu this year means it’s even more important to get vaccinated, especially for high-risk groups,” he said. 

“With Australians effectively back to normal lifestyles we’re expecting to see more COVID and flu cases this year. Our hospitals remain under strain, so protecting yourself and potentially avoiding a hospital visit will also help take some pressure off the health system.” 

Dr MacDermott said it was important to maintain the everyday hygiene practices we had learned during the past few years such as hand washing and staying home if feeling unwell. 

High risk groups include infants under six-months-old, adults 65 years and above, people with chronic health conditions, and the Indigenous community. 

Current Australian recommendations are that all adults aged 65 and above, or aged 18-64 with underlying medical conditions, should receive a COVID-19 booster if it’s been more than six months since their most recent COVID infection or booster, regardless of how many COVID-19 vaccines they’ve received. Those aged 18-64 without underlying medical conditions should also consider receiving a COVID-19 booster. 

Bupa has started delivering more than 50,000 flu vaccinations to organisations across Australia. They will be delivered onsite at workplaces and universities nationally and by our partnering pharmacies across more than 1,900 locations in Australia and New Zealand. 

Bupa corporate clients can still purchase flu shots for their employees here.