Amid surges of flu around the country, the Guild’s Trent Twomey is urging the Queensland Government to lower the age for pharmacist vaccination
Meanwhile in South Australia, Professor Paddy Phillips, Chief Medical Officer, has warned that this year’s flu season is “unprecedented,” with 18 residential aged care facilities going into lockdown so far this year.
The Immunisation Coalition reports that laboratory confirmed cases of flu have continued to rise, with 48,053 notifications made in Australia for 2019.
South Australia is leading the surge, with 12,606 cases confirmed at the beginning of 15 May; NSW is next, with 11,818; and Queensland follows, with 10,410 cases.
Guild Queensland branch president Trent Twomey is calling on the Queensland Government to allow those most at risk of developing influenza to receive a vaccination by a suitably qualified community pharmacist.
“People are dying and pharmacies can help,” he said.
“I call on the Queensland Government to lower the age that pharmacists can vaccinate to allow adolescents to receive vaccinations at their local pharmacy; and allow the National Immunisation Program stock to be available in community pharmacy as it is in Victoria, ACT and Western Australia.
“Queensland was the first state to allow pharmacist administered flu vaccinations, and has recently lowered the age of pharmacist administered vaccinations to 16 years.
“However we fall significantly behind other states in terms of access, and the alarming number of deaths from the flu in Queensland this year, is evidence that more should be done.
“We need to improve the accessibility of vaccinations in order to protect those most vulnerable in our community,” he said.
So far in 2019, 25 Queenslanders have died from the flu; AMA state president Dr Dilip Dhupelia told the ABC on Wednesday that coming so early in the year – with the flu peak yet to arrive – these statistics are “really frightening”.
In South Australia, Prof Phillips told reporters that to date 17 people have died from the flu this year – 13 of them aged care residents.
“This is an unprecedented year,” he told a press conference.
“We have never seen influenza in these numbers at this time of year. So far this year, there have been 12,339 cases of influenza reported to us and out of those there have been 17 deaths. Sadly, 13 of those have been in residential aged care facilities.”
Fifty-three residential aged care facilities have reported an outbreak so far; reporting to SA Health is a recommendation, however, not a requirement, so there may be or have been more outbreaks to date.
This year has also been unprecedented in terms of demand for the flu vaccine, he added, saying that SA Health has distributed 456,000 doses in the first six weeks of the 2019 vaccination program, compared to 370,000 for the whole of 2014.
He said, however, that takeup of free flu shots for under-fives has been less impressive, and urged parents of children in this age group to take them to the GP for vaccination.
Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Ken Wyatt has also encouraged seniors to be vaccinated with free enhanced vaccinations available through the NIP.
“Of the 54 Australians who have died from influenza so far this year, 42 have been aged 65 and over,” he warned.
Senior Australians continue to experience a high burden of disease with 75 per cent of influenza-associated deaths in 2018 occurring in people aged 65 years and older.