Combined upward cases of influenza and COVID-19 are alarming health authorities prompting the opening of mass vaccination pop-up clinics this Friday, July 8, and on July 15 at the Dubbo Showground.
Western NSW public health director Priscilla Stanley said Dubbo residents must "come forward" for vaccination as the number of influenza cases in the area has risen sharply recently while uptake of vaccines has not increased.
The move for mass vaccination in Dubbo comes as NSW health minister Brad Hazzard on Tuesday has warned of a third wave of the pandemic as the number of transmissions increased to 13,775 people diagnosed COVID positive as of July 4.
More than half of the 1,232 COVID deaths in NSW occurred in people with less than two doses of vaccines thus to prevent more deaths and infections the public is urged to be vaccinated, Mr Hazzard said.
Residents are also urged to book in for COVID booster shots, exercise common sense by wearing face masks in public indoor spaces and maintain physical distancing, chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said.
Data from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance showed up-to-date vaccination of people will have 65 percent greater protection against COVID hospitalisation or death.
"Face masks, hand hygiene, staying home when ill, testing yourself when symptoms present, physically distancing, all these measures are not new to us," Dr Chant said.
Mr Hazzard said the third wave of COVID-19 variant, Omicron, is likely to peak in late July or early August and this increased transmission brings with it greatly increased risks for those not up to date with their vaccines.
"The best way you can protect yourself from serious illness or worse is to get every vaccination that is available to you," Mr Hazzard said.
In the western NSW district, more than 1,400 influenza cases have been recorded for Dubbo alone, a marked increase last flu season in 2019, with COVID circulating along with influenza, Ms Stanley said.
Only 36 percent of people in Dubbo have been vaccinated against COVID while a third of residents have received influenza vaccine, reflecting low vaccination result, Ms Stanley said.
Among children in the district, only 20 percent aged under 15 have received vaccination, Ms Stanley said, as she urged families to ensure their children are vaccinated during the winter school holidays.
Co-infections with multiple respiratory viruses have been reported particularly in children, according to NSW health latest COVID and influenza data.
Of 70,458 influenza tests conducted in NSW as of this week, positives only decreased to nine percent from previous week's result of 15 percent.
Emergency departments have recorded 218 hospital admissions for influenza-like illnesses or 16 percent among those over 65 years old (52 percent), 36-64 years old (19 percent) and 12 percent of children aged up to four years old, the NSW health data stated.
Dubbo MP and minister for western NSW Dugald Saunders has urged residents not to be complacent this winter when the risk of catching viral illnesses like influenza and COVID-19 are higher.
"The flu is back with a vengeance and COVID-19 isn't going away, so I urge anyone who hasn't had a flu jab or COVID-19 booster to take this opportunity to protect themselves and their families," Mr Saunders said.
"Collaboration has been at the core of how our region responded to COVID-19 and it's really heartening to see this kind of collaboration continuing to bring these important clinics to Dubbo.
"I thank the members of our community who have already rolled up their sleeves to protect themselves and others," Mr Saunders said.
"With so many people presenting to EDs with flu-like illness over the past weeks, I encourage those who are yet to receive their jab to take advantage of the 17 July extension.
When booking for vaccination, residents are urged to ask their pharmacist or GP which vaccine is right for them. For more details, visit www.nsw.gov.au/flu.
Influenza vaccines are free for all eligible people until July 17 for anyone aged six months and over.
COVID-19 boosters are available to anyone over 16 years old and to find your nearest vaccine provider, visit the Federal Government's Clinic Finder.
To find out more about what you can do outside of vaccination to help protect yourselves and your communities from COVID-19 and influenza-like illnesses, visit the NSW Health website.
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