Pharmacy key in low flu rate

The WA branch of the Pharmacy Guild has highlighted the work the sector has done in keeping the rate of flu low in the 2020 season

Influenza in Western Australia is at its lowest level in the last five years, the Pharmacy Guild says.

The organisation notes that in June 2020, only 23 influenza cases were recorded by the WA Health Department, compared to 10,530 in June 2019.

While 2019 was a particularly bad year, this year’s cases are also well below the next lowest June figure, 253 in 2017.

Western Australians have embraced social distancing and general hygiene practices in response to COVID-19, and these actions have assisted to reduce the spread of influenza, says the Guild.

It says a key contributing factor in keeping influenza cases low has been an increased uptake of influenza vaccinations.

More than 240,000 influenza vaccinations were administered safely through the State’s community pharmacies during the two months of April and May 2020.

Pharmacy Guild of Australia WA Branch President Andrew Ngeow noted that community pharmacies have effectively responded to calls from the State and Commonwealth Governments to increase influenza vaccinations.

“This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Government’s advice was that people should get the influenza vaccine as soon as it was available, which for Western Australians over 65 years, was the first week of April,” he said.

“In remaining open and continuing to provide health care support to Western Australians, community pharmacies across the State responded to significant demand, which has greatly assisted in achieving the low levels rates of influenza being recorded currently.”

Community pharmacy administered vaccinations are improving public access to, and participation in, immunisation programs, the Guild says.

Community pharmacy was approved to administer the influenza vaccine to adults in Western Australia in 2015. In that year, 76 community pharmacies administered 15,621 influenza vaccinations.

“The convenience, accessibility and expertise which community pharmacy offers in its delivery of immunisation services has enabled the programme to expand year-on-year, and in 2019 over 120,000 vaccinations were provided,” Mr Ngeow said.

“Doubling that figure in just the first two months of the current pandemic was a significant healthcare result for Western Australia.”

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia WA Branch continues to encourage people to contact their local community pharmacy to arrange their influenza vaccination.

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