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If you've never had a flu shot, maybe this is your year

8 April, 2020

Many of us in the AQA community are restricted in our ability to cough, and even to breathe, through conditions that affect our chest muscles. That makes it smart for all of us to get a flu shot this year - and I mean carers and family as well.

Remember that what protects you from the flu is the flu shot you get for yourself.

Every autumn, flu vaccines are prepared in Australia that can protect you against the kinds of influenza you are likely to get as we move into winter.

This year is no different, and the latest vaccines are already being sent out to doctors, chemists and clinics.

Many of us in the AQA community get a flu shot at one of those places every year.

Especially if you have a spinal cord injury like I do, or another condition that affects your chest muscles, you'll be pretty keen to avoid getting the flu. For a start, I don't breathe as easily as most other people, and I can't cough very well.

This year is a great year to get a shot

If you don't normally get a flu shot, I think this year would be a great year to change that. That's because this year, we are trying to stay free of COVID-19 as well.

Flu symptoms and COVID-19 symptoms are similar in some ways. By protecting yourself from the flu, you can avoid the chance that on top of trying to recover from the flu, you are worried that what you have is something worse than the flu.

As well, having the flu doesn't protect you from COVID-19, the coronavirus disease. So this flu season, it is not impossible that you could get the flu and then also be unlucky enough to get COVID-19. You know you don't want that.

You can help other people too

I know that a lot of people with a spinal cord injury don't just get a flu shot for themselves. They encourage their family and other people around them, such as their carers, to get one as well.

That's a good idea. Again, I think it is an especially good idea this year.

However, if you do have an SCI or something else that affects your breathing, remember that what protects you from the flu is the vaccination you get for yourself.

When you encourage your family and support network to get flu shots, it is because you want those people to stay healthy all winter, and because you don't want them to get the flu and worry that it's COVID-19.

Sooner is better than later

The delivery of flu vaccines for this year has begun. Depending on where you live, you may have to make an appointment and then wait a few weeks for your shot. So probably, the sooner you make that appointment the better.

That is especially true because you need to have the vaccination when you are feeling healthy and good, not after you start feeling sick in some way. But if you are healthy, it is never too late to get one.

For a lot of people your flu shot - which is an injection - will be free. That includes children aged under five, people aged 65 or older, and people with respiratory conditions such as a spinal cord injury.

If it is not free it won't cost a whole lot. The Australian consumer magazine Choice gives $15-$25 as a rough guide, but it points out that your Medicare refund might not cover the full consultation fee if you get one from your doctor.

Of course you can shop around online to find the best price you can.

What is called the flu season typically starts in June and runs to September.

I wish you and your family, friends and support team a healthy flu season this year.

Peter Van Benthem is Peer Support Coordinator with AQA Spire. He has been living with a spinal cord injury since 1999.

Tags: Blog, Health & Wellbeing