More jabs could help if flu, coronavirus timing converges

The flu virus.
The flu virus.

Pharmacy groups have welcomed the NSW Government’s move to allow pharmacists to vaccinate 10-year-olds

Health Minister Brad Hazzard announced the move on Monday, saying that with the likely convergence of a COVID-19 pandemic with this year’s flu season, giving families more options is a sensible tactic.

“Last year was the longest flu season on record and in 2017 more than 650 people in NSW died from flu-related conditions, and now we have COVID-19,” Mr Hazzard said.

“While the flu vaccine won’t combat COVID-19, it will help reduce the severity and spread of flu, which can lower a person’s immunity and make them susceptible to other illnesses.

“By allowing pharmacists to administer privately purchased flu vaccines to people aged 10 years and over, families now have more choice when booking-in for a flu jab.”

The change is expected to come into effect by mid-March.

Pharmacy Guild NSW Branch president David Heffernan welcomed the announcement, saying it was a positive and timely step ahead of what may be another bad season for influenza.

“This beneficial change will allow trained pharmacist vaccinators to make an even bigger contribution to herd immunity in NSW. It also brings NSW into line with other jurisdictions that have taken this step. 

“We thank the Minister for Health, Brad Hazzard, and the NSW Government for this timely move,” he said.

“We also continue to urge the inclusion of community pharmacies in the distribution of the National Immunisation Program vaccines for at-risk patients,” Mr Heffernan said.

PSA NSW Branch President, Professor Peter Carroll, also congratulated Minister Hazzard.

“This is a significant announcement from the NSW Government and will protect younger children from influenza and significantly increase immunisation rates in the state,” he said.

“During 2019, NSW recorded the highest confirmed cases of influenza in Australia with children particularly susceptible to the flu.

“Studies have found that less than a third of children are being immunised each flu season and influenza causes a substantial number of ICU admissions in Australian children each year.”

Professor Carroll said NSW children would now be better protected from influenza as today’s announcement would allow families greater access to the vaccine and was particularly timely with the upcoming flu season.

“Allowing pharmacists to vaccinate makes it more convenient for families, providing greater access to the influenza vaccine and improving rates of immunisation,” he said.

“Already, this year there have been 4,725 confirmed cases of influenza in NSW and with the likely convergence of a COVID-19 pandemic with winter influenza, this move will help to bolster immunity in NSW.

“Boosting vaccination rates and preventing influenza outbreaks can ease pressure on our GP surgeries and hospital emergency departments.”

The NSW decision comes a week after Queensland Health announced that pharmacists will be able to administer the influenza vaccination, and adrenaline, to people aged 10 years and above.

In that state, trained pharmacists in the state will also be able to administer cholera, diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (dTpa); diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and poliomyelitis (dTpa-IPV); Haemophilus influenza type B; hepatitis A; meningococcal ACWY; poliomyelitis; and measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccines to people aged 16 years and above.

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