The Federal Government has announced that it has secured three million additional doses of flu vaccine, in a move welcomed by the Pharmacy Guild
Health Minister Greg Hunt said in a statement on Sunday that the three million doses, which will be available through pharmacies and GP surgeries during April, May and June, bring the total number of flu vaccines available for Australians to 16.5 million for 2020.
This includes approximately two million doses of the quadrivalent vaccine, Afluria Quad, supplied by Seqirus.
“The Government has already secured a record 8.6 million vaccines for the National Immunisation Program (NIP), including more than four million doses of Fluad Quad, which is recommended for people aged 65 and over,” said the Minister.
“This is enough to provide vaccines for free through the NIP to almost 100 per cent of people aged 65 and over.
“Around 7.9 million vaccines will be available through the private market through GPs, community pharmacy and other vaccine providers.
“So far this year over 13.8 million vaccines have been released by the TGA for the Australian market with the additional supplies to arrive over the next six to eight weeks.
“I encourage everyone to contact their GP or community pharmacy to book in an appointment to get their flu shot throughout April and May, unless they have a medical reason that would prevent them from getting a vaccine.”
The Minister said that he was pleased that Australians have shown stronger than usual interest in vaccination this year, saying that “recent weeks have seen an unprecedented surge in demand for flu vaccination”.
The Guild said that it “warmly welcomed” the announcement about the additional stock and noted that the demand for flu vaccination this year has been “extremely high and largely unforeseen”.
This was due at least in part to the focus on respiratory health and wellness sparked by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Guild said that most community pharmacies had reported very high demand, with some stores expending their early deliveries of stock in “record” time.
Unfortunately, this left them without stock during a time of strong consumer demand.
The National President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, George Tambassis, said the Government intervention to secure additional stock was exactly the right response to the current circumstances.
“We thank Minister Hunt and the Government for taking this action now to head off a severe shortage of vaccine at the height of the flu season,” Mr Tambassis said.
He said the very strong focus on flu vaccination this year by so many Australians promises to lead to a high level of herd immunity and hopefully produce a moderate influenza rate across the community this year at a critical time.
“We encourage anyone who has not yet had their flu vaccination to contact their local community pharmacy to arrange a vaccination now if stock is available, or to register to be contacted when stock arrives,” Mr Tambassis said.
“As Minister Hunt has said today, while flu vaccination does not prevent against COVID-19, vaccination against the flu is critical to protecting the general health of Australians.
“Both influenza and COVID-19 cause serious respiratory illness. The combination of both diseases can be life threatening, especially for our vulnerable people–so a flu vaccination is a very wise precaution in 2020,” Mr Tambassis said.
The Pharmacy Guild also welcomed the announcement that additional protective face masks have been secured for the national stockpile for use by frontline health workers including community pharmacies.
Seqirus itself said that it will go back into production to supply around two million of the extra flu vaccinations.
“We’ve seen strong demand for flu vaccines earlier than usual – and this is a positive trend, because we know that flu vaccination programs will be more important than ever due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Seqirus Executive Director Commercial Operations, Danielle Dowell.
“It’s important to note that the supply of these additional doses won’t be instantaneous – our team will be working hard to manufacture doses, but patients should phone their clinic or pharmacy ahead of time to ensure the vaccines have arrived and are available.
“We will be working closely with distributors across the country to make sure the vaccines are available as soon as possible, in areas of high demand.”