The Australian Government has secured three million additional doses of seasonal influenza vaccines to protect Australians from the flu, bringing the total number of flu vaccines available for Australians to 16.5 million for 2020.
These additional three million flu vaccines will be available through GPs and community pharmacies over April, May and June. This includes approximately two million doses of the quadrivalent vaccine, Afluria Quad® (supplied by Seqirus).
The Government has already secured a record 8.6 million vaccines for the National Immunisation Program (NIP), including more than four million doses of Fluad Quad®, which is recommended for people aged 65 and over. This is enough to provide vaccines for free through the NIP to almost 100 per cent of people aged 65 and over.
Around 7.9 million vaccines will be available through the private market through GPs, community pharmacy and other vaccine providers.
So far this year over 13.8 million vaccines have been released by the TGA for the Australian market with the additional supplies to arrive over the next six to eight weeks.
I encourage everyone to contact their GP or community pharmacy to book in an appointment to get their flu shot throughout April and May, unless they have a medical reason that would prevent them from getting a vaccine.
Vaccinating against the flu saves and protects lives and is particular important this year due to COVID-19.
Whilst flu vaccination does not prevent against COVID-19, a flu vaccination is critical to protecting the general health of Australians from influenza.
Both influenza and COVID-19 cause serious respiratory illness. The combination of both diseases could be life threatening, especially for our vulnerable people.
I am pleased that Australians have already heeded this message. Recent weeks have seen an unprecedented surge in demand for flu vaccination.
Since 1 March 2020 over 2.1 million flu vaccines have been administered and recorded in the Australian Immunisation Register compared to 624,000 at the same time in 2019 and 235,000 in 2018.
These higher than usual vaccination rates at this time of the year is due to early and strong demand for flu vaccines and the good work of GPs, community pharmacy and other vaccine providers in encouraging people to get vaccinated.
All states and territories are distributing influenza vaccines for the NIP via normal channels and significant numbers of vaccine doses are already with GPs and other providers, with others being distributed as quickly as possible.
It is hoped that these additional vaccines will help to ensure as many people as possible can be vaccinated this year.
The Government has invested more than $80 million to provide free 2020 flu vaccine to people most at risk of complications from influenza, through the NIP.
Annual vaccination is the most important measure to prevent influenza and is recommended for all people aged six months and over (unless contraindicated).
From 1 May 2020, all aged care workers and visitors must have been vaccinated against seasonal influenza to enter an aged care facility.
More information on the flu is available at https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/immunisation/immunisation-services/flu-influenza-immunisation-service.
Keep up to date with the latest information on the COVID-19 pandemic and the Government’s response at www.health.gov.au.