How pharmacy helped in this year’s flu season

Pharmacist administers a vaccine. Source: PSA.
Pharmacist administers a vaccine. Source: PSA.

Record numbers of Australians were vaccinated against flu this year – and the Health Minister has pointed out pharmacy’s involvement

Greg Hunt has announced that Australia experienced the lowest rates of influenza since 2013, after a record 11 million Australians were vaccinated against the disease.

This was nearly a third more than in the previous year.

2017’s flu season saw the highest flu activity in Australia in almost a decade, with nearly 250,000 cases reported; in the same period in 2018, only 52,000 cases of influenza were reported.

The Health Minister praised collaboration between vaccine providers.

“Delivering vaccines to people in most need of protection would not have been possible without the collaboration between GPs and other vaccination providers across Australia, as well as community pharmacies which encouraged and administered the uptake of this important, life-saving vaccination,” he said.

Pharmacy stakeholders welcomed Mr Hunt’s support.

“Community pharmacies are proud of the contribution we have made to this public health success story,” said National President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, George Tambassis.

“And we can do more – National Immunisation Program vaccines for influenza high-risk patient groups are currently available through community pharmacies in only two States – Victoria and Western Australia.

“These vital vaccines should be available through community pharmacies in all States and Territories to provide equal access for all Australians through their local pharmacy and pharmacist vaccinator.”

Professor Peter Carroll, President of the NSW Branch of PSA, said that “The administration of vaccines by community pharmacists complements the excellent work done by GPs”.

“It helps to increase the vaccination rate, and herd immunity within the community,” he said.

“As frontline health care professionals community pharmacists are able to offer vaccination services to those people who do not have a GP, or visit a GP only rarely.

“Allowing community pharmacists to vaccinate people against influenza has clearly resulted in a significant increase in the number of people vaccinated, and contributed to the dramatic and very welcome drop in the death rate caused by influenza.”

In discussing the 2018 flu season, Mr Hunt also highlighted the new enhanced vaccines the Coalition Government made available for the elderly.

He said more than 3.4 million more doses of the flu vaccine were made available: enough to vaccinate more than 85% of people aged 65 and older.

There was also unprecedented demand for flu vaccines early in the 2018 season, which led the Government to secure an additional 1.3 million doses of the vaccine for the National Immunisation Program, state programs and the private market.

“The vaccines were made available ahead of the peak period of seasonal influenza transmission, which occurred in early September this year,” Mr Hunt said.

“The number of deaths from influenza reduced substantially compared to last year, with 73 deaths reported compared to 1,137 deaths in the same period last year.

“This is a timely reminder to everyone – vaccinations work. I am absolutely committed to strengthening Australia’s world-class National Immunisation Program and urge all Australians to get vaccinated.

“Influenza is complex and unpredictable. Its impact on the community can vary from year to year and the action our Government took means more families have been spared the tragedy of losing someone they love because of this preventable, infectious disease.”

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