Victoria follows other states with free flu jabs

By Anna Macdonald

May 31, 2022

Martin Foley
Victorian health minister Martin Foley. (AAP Image/James Ross)

Following similar announcements from the Queensland and NSW governments, Victoria has become the latest state to offer its residents free flu vaccinations.

From June 1, Victorians will be able to get free flu vaccinations until the end of the month across 3,000 locations, including pharmacies.

The $33 million program was announced during a media conference on Tuesday by Victoria’s health minister, Martin Foley.

The minister said he was confident about the supply of flu vaccines, having a commonwealth-guaranteed supply. Foley also stated he was unworried about a rush to get the vaccines, pointing to the number of locations and the online booking system.

During the media conference, Foley highlighted the pressures on the state’s health system, with 527 people hospitalised from COVID and 9,595 new cases reported on Monday. 

“That is a pretty big demand on an already stretched health system,” Foley said. “Add to that a flu season the likes of which we haven’t seen for a number of years. Add to that, deferred care, chronic conditions, a fatigued workforce. 

“Sixteen hundred people are furloughed every day on average from the healthcare system. And, a huge program of catching up on both the public and private elective surgery systems. That is a health system that is under huge pressure, which is why this government has invested $12 billion in that recovery from the pandemic plan.”

Flu season is arriving at a difficult time during the pandemic.

COVID-19 variants are concerning some health experts, including Melbourne University and Doherty Institute modeller James McCaw. McCaw told the AFR that the omicron BA4/5 variant was likely to increase case numbers.

“I expect a clear increase in case incidence over the medium term. This could be as early as mid-June, but our genomic surveillance data is difficult to interpret,” McCaw said. 

The health minister emphasised the role of masks as a useful tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19, although he stressed the decision to wear a mask lay with individuals, businesses and communities, not the government. 

When asked by a journalist whether media would be able to speak to chief health officer Brett Sutton, Foley said the public servant does when ‘appropriate’.

“Professor Sutton is a hard-working public servant who provides me and lots of others regular advice. He’s a very busy person. And when it’s appropriate for the chief health officer to make public commentary, he regularly does,” Foley commented. 

The state health minister further emphasised Victoria was at the stage of learning to live with COVID-19, a departure from the days of COVID Zero.

Both NSW and Queensland have set up a similar programs. Queensland has reported a high uptake of the free vaccination, with a 14.7% increase in vaccination rates following the implementation of the program. 


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