Local

Flu season down under hints at trouble here

MILFORD -- The Milford Senior Center schedules dozens of well-attended exercise classes  -- but that’s not the only way some are keeping healthy this fall. The Center is holding two flu shot clinics this week -- and attendance exceeded expectations Monday.

“I knew it would be busy, but when (the pharmacists) left they said they did just under a hundred vaccines,” said Director Susan Clark. “So I thought that was a great success.  We’ll probably do just that many tomorrow... maybe even more.”

Clark isn’t surprised the clinics, sponsored by the local Board of Health and Milford Central Pharmacy, were a hit.

“It’s just an extra layer of protection,” she said. “They can go to a local pharmacy, but I think there’s a level of comfort here.”

Anne Hickman was among those immunized at the Senior Center clinic.

“Just to play it safe,” she said. “You never know, as you get older.”

Hickman also heard this could be a bad year for flu -- and while that remains to be seen, data from Australia, where flu season is coming to a close, suggests a difficult season may lie ahead.

The flu affecting the Southern Hemisphere now, will swing north in a matter of weeks -- and so far,  Australia has logged nearly 224,000 cases of lab-confirmed influenza and 295 deaths. The country’s five-year average for flu cases is less than half that.

Last year, the government reported just 512 cases and zero deaths -- those numbers hardly indicative of a normal flu season in Australia but, likely more a side effect from Covid precautions still in place in 2021.

With virtually no Covid precautions in place in the U.S. vaccination efforts now may prove especially important in preventing widespread flu as the holiday season approaches.

Brad Gough, a retired teacher, got his flu shot last week.

“Last time I had the flu was maybe 25, 30 years ago and I didn’t get a flu shot then,” Gough said. “I’ve been getting them annually for many years and I’ve never gotten the flu.”

Gloria Gandolfi got vaccinated last week -- at the same time she got a Covid booster, one shot in each arm.

“Thank God I’ve never gotten the flu,” she said. “My sisters didn’t get the shot and they were very sick.”

The CDC reports that, on average, flu shots offer a 40 to 60 percent reduction in risk of illness. While it’s not completely clear how effective this year’s shots will be, the early read from the Australian government is a bit underwhelming.

Health authorities down under said last week that “vaccine effectiveness appears at the lower end of moderate range.”

One thing about this year’s vaccine that’s at the lower end in Australia, as well: uptake.

As of August 31, 2022, the government reports fewer than 40 percent of Australians eligible for flu shots had gotten them.

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