Australia running out of flu shots despite health warnings

 

Only half the population will be able to get a flu vaccination this year and some pharmacies have already run out as doctors urge everyone to get vaccinated in anticipation of freeing up hospital beds for COVID-19.

The Department of Health has confirmed 13.5 million doses of the flu vaccine have been ordered, more than last year, but that's only enough for around one in every two Australians.

The Royal Australian College of GPs is urging every Australian to get vaccinated against the flu but this won't be possible unless extra supplies of the flu vaccine are ordered.

And there are concerns that with most of the population working from home, people who rely on workplace vaccination programs may miss out on the vaccine.

Nurse Phuong Vo gives Joyce Jardine, 88, her vaccination in Newport. Picture: Mark Stewart
Nurse Phuong Vo gives Joyce Jardine, 88, her vaccination in Newport. Picture: Mark Stewart

Australian Medical Association president Dr Tony Bartone said "with so many hundreds of thousands of Australians currently laid off from their jobs, the opportunity for workplace immunisations will be drastically reduced".

He urged Australians who usually relied on workplace vaccinations to make sure they made an appointment with their GP for a vaccination this year.

"As stocks of vaccination might take a few days to arrive in some locations, it is important that people ring the general practice before making an appointment to make sure that supplies of the influenza vaccine have arrived," he said.

Doctors also fear elderly people, frightened they may catch COVID-19 if they go to the GP for a flu vaccine, might not come forward to get protected.

 

Westgate Health Co-Op in Newport observes social distancing while administering influenza vaccinations. Dr Stephen O'Shea gives Frank Vanderlinden, 78, his shot. Picture: Mark Stewart
Westgate Health Co-Op in Newport observes social distancing while administering influenza vaccinations. Dr Stephen O'Shea gives Frank Vanderlinden, 78, his shot. Picture: Mark Stewart

 

South Australian GP Dr Rod Pearce, a spokesman for the Immunisation Coalition, said GPs were trying to come up with ways of delivering the flu vaccination without exposing patients to the risk of COVID-19 in their waiting rooms.

One method he has tried is vaccinating people in their cars in the clinic's carpark and keeping watch to ensure they don't have a reactions.

GP's were sharing information about how to manage their waiting rooms to deliver flu vaccines while also reducing the risk of COVID-19.

Last year Australia had one of its worst flu seasons on record with over 303,000 cases and the government had to order an extra 400,000 doses of the flu vaccine.

This year, the flu season started five months early and so far there have been almost 19,000 laboratory confirmed cases.

Confirmed COVID-19 Cases in QLD

 

However, it appears the lockdown imposed to control COVID-19 is also helping to control the spread of the flu.

There were nearly 7000 influenza cases per month in January and February but in March after lockdowns were introduced this fell to around 5300 cases.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said it was too early to say how many vaccines may be required but record numbers of supplies for the free national immunisation program which provides free vaccines for the elderly, children and those with chronic illnesses have been secured.

This included four million doses of the Fluad Quad® which is specifically designed to boost the immune response of elderly people to four influenza strains.

The flu vaccination will not prevent COVID-19 but it will stop hospitals being filled up with people suffering complications from influenza.

Between April and September last year nearly 4000 people (3732 ) were admitted to hospitals with complications from the flu and these beds will be needed for COVID-19 patients.

A Pharmacy Guild of Australian spokesman said while some pharmacies may have run out of vaccine stock on a particular day - they should get new supplies the next day.

People have also been advised to shop around.

It was best to ring ahead and book an appointment with a pharmacy, the spokesman said.

News Corp understands Australia's onshore flu vaccine manufacturer Sequiris is ready to make extra doses of the flu vaccine if required.

Originally published as Australia running out of flu shots despite health warnings



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