The Australian Government has launched an $11 million six-week campaign to encourage people to get vaccinated for both COVID-19 and influenza this winter and underlined the availability of antivirals for those most vulnerable to severe effects of COVID-19.

For the first time since 2019, there is the double threat of significant community transmission of both COVID-19 and influenza – with the likely outcome being a continued increase in case numbers over coming months.

Health professionals and hospitals are reporting increased numbers of people seeking treatment for respiratory illness. Vaccination is key to protecting against severe illness.

The Federal Government says it is vital that eligible people keep up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations and, if they haven’t already done so, have their annual flu jab as soon as possible.

Further, the Government noted two oral antiviral treatments – Lagevrio and Paxlovid – are available from local pharmacies for those most vulnerable to severe effects of COVID-19. People are encouraged to talk to their GP about the right treatment for their health needs.

More than 1.3 million courses of antivirals have been purchased by the Government to help protect people who remain at risk of progressing to severe illness from the virus, even when up to date with their vaccinations.

While most will only experience mild symptoms, for older Australians and those with some underlying medical conditions, antiviral treatments can be effective, often preventing hospitalisation. One of the big advantages of these drugs is that they can be taken at home.

However, timing is critical. COVID-19 can move from mild to severe illness very quickly. It’s vital to start the five-day antiviral treatment course when symptoms first appear.

People are encouraged to check if they are eligible for an antiviral treatment and discuss options with their doctor.