08/04/2020

South Australians eligible for a free influenza vaccine through the National Immunisation Program are being encouraged to immediately contact their immunisation provider to book in for a flu shot.

Premier Steven Marshall said 233,000 doses of the vaccine have been distributed to immunisation providers in the first two weeks of the rollout which will bolster the state government’s plan to minimise the health impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on South Australians.

“This year more than any other it is very important that vulnerable South Australians take advantage of the free flu vaccination this year,” said Premier Steven Marshall.

“While the flu vaccine will not stop someone contracting COVID-19, it will reduce the likelihood of vulnerable individuals succumbing to the coronavirus.

The Premier also announced that frontline SA Health workers will again be eligible for a free flu vaccination

“We need to do everything possible to protect our frontline health workers who are putting themselves at risk to care for us all.”

Health Minister Stephen Wade said the National Immunisation Program was being delivered before the peak of coronavirus cases, which would save the lives of vulnerable South Australians.

“I am pleased to say that 80 per cent of all immunisation providers in SA have received their first delivery of this year’s flu vaccine and we expect every provider to have received their first order by the end of this week,” said Minister Wade.

“Last year there were 28,529 notifications of the flu in SA and sadly 116 deaths, which is why I encourage everyone who is eligible to take advantage of this program and get their free dose.

“I also encourage other South Australians to get immunised against the flu in 2020.”

Through the National Immunisation Program (NIP), free flu vaccines are available for everyone aged over 65, pregnant women, all children aged six months to less than five years of age, all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over six months and people with medical conditions that predispose them to complications from the flu.

Adults and children who are homeless and are not eligible for free flu vaccines under the NIP, are now eligible to receive influenza vaccines for free under the new State Funded Influenza Program.

The Department for Health and Wellbeing’s Communicable Disease and Control Branch Director, Dr Louise Flood, said in the first week of distribution, more vaccine was delivered to providers than for the same period in 2019 and 2018.

“There was unprecedented demand last year for the flu vaccine after a high number of cases were reported earlier in the season,” Dr Flood said.

“I would like to reassure everyone that there will be enough doses through the NIP and State funded programs to protect South Australians at risk and I encourage everyone who is not eligible for a free vaccine to talk to their own immunisation providers about getting the vaccine.

“As the flu season peaks through June to September around Australia, it’s recommended that people start getting vaccinated in April. With the exception of certain groups, revaccination later in the same season is not routinely recommended.”

As of 6 April, there have been 1,447 cases of the flu notified to the Communicable Disease and Control Branch this year, compared to 4,533 at the same time last year.