12 April 2023

Get jabbed for winter now with warnings of upcoming 'triple pandemic'

| Claire Fenwicke
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Nurse preparing vaccine

We’ve been encouraged to make sure we’re protected against COVID-19 and the flu before the end of May. Photo: File.

Canberra Health Services staff have been warned “things could be turning” as the system braces for a triple health threat this winter.

While CHS CEO Dave Peffer usually sends email updates to staff on what to expect in the coming months, this one noted they needed to be prepared for an uptick in need for their services.

“Well, the ACT (and the rest of Australia) has had a good run in recent months [but] … things could be turning,” he wrote.

“Updated numbers suggest the ACT is in the midst of an XXBB.1.5 wave.”

This refers to the latest COVID-19 Omicron subvariant, which the World Health Organisation said could “contribute to an increase in cases globally” due to its ability to replicate quickly.

Mr Peffer noted hospitalisations were already trending upwards, with staff urged to prepare now for a potential “accelerating wave”.

“The week-to-week [hospitalisation] rise being the second fastest since mid-December … [and] with recent outbreaks in a number of inpatient wards, it’s the right time to be reviewing our settings,” he wrote.

“I’m foreshadowing the potential for change in the weeks ahead … Modelling for the week ahead is predicting a sustained increase in weekly numbers and an increase in hospitalisations.

“Watch this space.”

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Our healthcare workers aren’t the only ones preparing for a tougher winter period.

Teachers and staff at Canberra’s public schools have also been warned sicknesses could further exacerbate staff shortages in the next few months.

“Between the national teacher shortage, colder weather, flu season and the ongoing global pandemic, it is sensible for us to expect that there could be pressures on our teaching workforce in Term 2 and to plan for that accordingly,” an Education Directorate spokesperson said.

Staff have been advised to be prepared to adapt or modify their programs to help manage resource pressures.

The spokesperson said schools had a range of methods to manage staffing arrangements, many of which had been available “well before the pandemic”.

“This can include the use of inbuilt or external relief, changes to class offerings and scheduling, further teaching supports from the Directorate, short-term collapsing of classes, as well as other mechanisms,” they said.

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It comes as medical modelling from the northern hemisphere’s recent flu season suggests we could experience an earlier and more severe flu season ourselves.

Bupa Health Insurance Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony MacDermott said doctors were anticipating a triple pandemic in the form of multiple viruses simultaneously.

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

“With Australians effectively back to normal lifestyles, we’re expecting to see more COVID and flu cases this year.”

Dr MacDermott encouraged people to get both their flu and COVID booster shots before the end of May to ensure they were protected in time.

“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.

Dr MacDermott encouraged people to get vaccinated before the end of May to protect them against the upcoming flu season.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

An ACT Health spokesperson confirmed the directorate expected an increase in acute respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19 and influenza, in line with seasonal trends this winter.

“As we approach the cooler months, the ACT Health Directorate would like to remind Canberrans about the importance of staying COVID Smart,” they said.

“Stay at home if you feel unwell. Test for COVID-19 if you have symptoms. Even if the test is negative, remain at home until you’re feeling better. Practise good hand and respiratory hygiene and consider wearing a mask when entering public indoor settings or where it is difficult to maintain physical distancing.”

The spokesperson said ACT Health would continue to monitor and assess the Territory’s epidemiological situation and risk profile and would adapt the public health response if appropriate.

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According to the latest COVID-19 report, there were 550 new cases in the week from 31 March to 7 April, with 49 people hospitalised – three of whom were in ICU.

Going back through the data, an upwards trend in cases and hospitalisations is easy to spot.

For the reporting period 24 March to 30 March, one person had died, with 526 new cases recorded and 21 people in hospital.

From 17 March to 23 March, 515 cases and 14 active cases in hospital were recorded.

Similar numbers were reported for the week before that.

Influenza data is currently not being recorded in the ACT.

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CaptainSpiff10:46 am 14 Apr 23

So many Covid doomers here.

Just remember that ATAGI advice on Covid boosters has changed significantly (search up “atagi covid booster advice”). Boosters are only recommended for 65+ or people with significant risk factors. They are explicitly *not* recommended for 18 and under, due to side effects such as myocarditis. And for anyone 18-65 without significant risk factors, ATAGI’s recommendation is to get a risk benefit assessment before getting any booster.

And yet we have articles like this telling people to “get jabbed”. Does the governments own advice not count any more?

Why didn’t you take your own advice and ‘search up (sic) “atagi covid booster advice”’? Then perhaps you would not have posted your false and misleading comment.

As at 8 Feb 2023 (when the latest ATAGI advice was released and able to be viewed here -> https://www.health.gov.au/news/atagi-2023-booster-advice) the only groups for which a booster is specifically not recommended by ATAGI, is those in the under 5 and 5 – 17 age groups.

There’s even a more recent mention of the ATAGI advice (https://www.health.gov.au/news/top-up-your-covid-19-protection) on 30-March-2023.

Perhaps we need more COVID doomers, to provide accurate information to counteract the COVID conspiracy misinformers?

CaptainSpiff4:42 pm 14 Apr 23

Did you even read their advice? ATAGI only placed a “Recommend” against these groups:

* 65+
* 18-65 with risk factors

For 18-65 without risk factors, they literally say “Consider” (read the link you posted please!), and that this consideration should be informed by a risk benefit assessment by an immunisation provider.

How in the world have you spun a recommendation from that?

And the advice in the article is totally in line with that … “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,” he said.
The operative words being “due for their COVID booster” … if people fall oustide the ATAGI guidelines, then they are not due.
The article is primarily about the preparedness of the healthcare and teaching professions to deal with the expected upsurge in COVID cases and the potential impact on resources. How do you construe there is an issue with telling those who are due “to get a jab”?

CaptainSpiff6:43 pm 14 Apr 23

Ah… So now you’re saying the advice in the article is only aimed at 18-65 year olds with significant risk factors, or 65+… Don’t you think the author should have mentioned such a massive caveat? How many readers do you think understood that?

Good grief.

“Don’t you think the author should have mentioned such a massive caveat?”
Absolutely – if people like you have misunderstood the government’s message … which has been consistent all along – when in doubt consult your qualified and informed medical practitioner. A message we have heeded all along and discussed every jab we have had with our GP before having it.

Your comment “Does the governments own advice not count any more?” is misleading – as I think what you meant is “Doesn’t this author know and/or understand the governments advice?”

And your reference to “Covid doomers” is condescending – unless you don’t accept the government’s ongoing advice that COVID is far from over.

GrumpyGrandpa9:00 pm 12 Apr 23

We’ve had our 5th Covid shots and will be getting our Flu shots soon.

After the restrictions were lifted, some people seem to decide that Boosters were no longer required. I don’t understand that attitude. I guess they were the same people who rode public transport without masks, during the mask mandate!

Role your arm up.

Did you get to pick which booster you got? or is it limited now that some of them have been pulled from Australia?

The online booking utility for the COVID jab allows you to specify the ‘flavour of booster’ you want. However, I don’t know if that means the pharmacy you select then is obligated to administer your chosen flavour. Definitely worth checking if you have a concern about a particular flavour.

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