“Unprecedented demand” for flu vaccination has led to a shortage which the Health Department is now trying to address
A number of recent surveys – by the Pharmacy Guild, the Immunisation Coalition and finder.com.au – finding that only between 44% and 50% of Australian adults intended to be vaccinated against flu this year, but there has actually been strong demand – to the point where the record numbers of vaccines imported this year have not been enough.
Australia’s acting chief medical officer Dr Tony Hobbs has issued a statement explaining that the Department intends to make more doses of the vaccine available in the near future.
“Record numbers of seasonal influenza vaccines have been brought into the country this year,” Dr Hobbs says.
The Government made more than 5.1 million doses of seasonal influenza vaccines available in 2018 through the National Immunisation Program.
Nationally, this represents almost a 10% increase than any other year for NIP vaccines.
So far this year, the TGA has released 9.6 million doses of flu vaccine across the NIP, state programs and the private market.
Dr Hobbs compared this to 2017, in which the TGA released 8.3 million doses across these channels.
However, “unprecedented demand for seasonal influenza vaccination this year has impacted the availability of supplies,” Dr Hobbs says.
“According to states and territories, compared to last year, there has been a 25-30% increase in demand.”
He says the Department of Health is “working closely” with the states and territories to monitor availability, and with companies to ensure additional doses are brought into the country.
“The Chief Medical Officer has been tasked with ensuring as much vaccine is brought into the country as possible.
“The Department of Health can advise that additional doses of TIVs (trivalent influenza vaccines) and QIVs (quadrivalent influenza vaccines) will soon be made available through the National Immunisation Program.”
The run on flu vaccines isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however, Dr Hobbs says.
“It is positive that people have heard the message and are taking action to get vaccinated against influenza.”