The NSW government will make influenza vaccinations freely available until the end of next month, to address concerns about the impact of flu on the health system this winter.
The move comes amid concerns from public health experts that Australia may face a severe flu season this winter.
According to NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant, 1,140 patients with severe flu symptoms and respiratory illness were recorded in the past week alone. That compares to 766 patients the previous week leading to 150 presentations and admissions to hospitals in NSW.
“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.
Thank you for your safe behaviours the past 2 years – you've saved many lives. With rising flu cases & COVID-19 still around, we need to keep up the #littlethings like wearing masks, staying home if unwell, catching up outside and getting vaxxed for both COVID-19 and flu. pic.twitter.com/Z2FFLJsEAR
— New South Wales Chief Health Officer (@NSWCHO) May 24, 2022
As part of the free vaccine scheme, the NSW government will fund community pharmacies to deliver the shots.
A statement from NSW Health also advised that GPs would be reimbursed for flu stock that was already purchased and used in the month of June as part of the vaccination program.
“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,” Dr Chant said.
“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.”
Decision-makers in Victoria and the Northern Territory are also considering making vaccine free.