NSW joins states offering free flu shots

More states roll out free flu shots

NSW is the latest state to offer free flu shots as health authorities continue to raise the alarm about a dangerous flu season ahead.

Influenza vaccines will be available free to everyone in NSW during June.

In addition, to help boost uptakes, the state will allow GPs and pharmacists to administer shots to everyone aged five and older (down from 10 years).

NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said 1140 cases of respiratory illness were notified last week, compared with 766 in the previous week and 150 presentations and admissions to hospitals.

“We strongly urge everyone over six months of age to get a flu shot as soon as possible to protect themselves and their loved ones, as the virus is easily spread and potentially deadly,” Dr Chant said.

“This is particularly important for those in high-risk groups, such as the elderly and children aged six months to five years. If you live in an aged or disability care facility, are aged over 65 or are immunocompromised, now is the time to book in.

“We also recommend a COVID-19 winter booster if you are eligible, as both flu and COVID-19 vaccines can be given at the same time.”

Victoria is also considering a similar arrangement, with Australian Medical Association Victorian president Roderick McRae confirming an announcement was expected this week.

He said the association was working with the state government to establish a sensible timeline and approach to the distribution of vaccines.

“It’s an important investment by the Victorian government into the health and welfare of all Victorians,” Dr McRae said on Monday.

“It’s a safe vaccine … [and] I would encourage everybody to have it.”

Queensland was the first state to make influenza vaccines free, extending the offer to everyone six months and older.

At the weekend, Western Australia and South Australia followed.

WA residents of all ages will be able to receive their free influenza jab from Wednesday at state-run clinics or participating pharmacies and GPs.

People aged over five in South Australia can go to their local GP or pharmacy to get their free vaccine.

SA Premier Peter Malinauskas said his state’s program was expected to cost $4.9 million.

“The dual challenge of broad community spread of COVID-19 and influenza at the same time during winter threatens to put further pressure on a hospital system already facing significant demand,” Mr Malinauskas said on Sunday.

“We must do everything we can to ensure as many South Australians as possible are immunised against both COVID and influenza to ease pressure on our hospitals.”

There have been 1195 confirmed cases of influenza in SA this year, compared with 12 cases for the same period last year.

WA has had 194 flu cases in 2022, with only about 20 per cent of West Australians receiving their flu jab so far this year.

“After two years of very low flu cases, I would urge all Western Australians to roll up to protect themselves now before the worst of winter,” WA Premier Mark McGowan said.

-with AAP

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