The shortage of flu vaccines highlights how important pharmacist vaccination is becoming, says one pharmacy group

Advantage Pharmacy says that it has experienced “overwhelming” demand for flu vaccines across its network of stores this winter.

This consumer demand has proven that pharmacists are an integral part of the provision of professional and convenient primary health care.

Data from a sample of 29 Advantage Pharmacies, of its 200 membership, shows a 161% increase in demand for the vaccine compared to last year, with May being the most popular month to be immunised.

The increase in awareness of the importance of flu vaccinations via the media and word of mouth has, however, led to some supply issues, Advantage says.

Director of Advantage Pharmacy, Michael Gray says, “it has been particularly difficult this year for the pharmacies and all stakeholders in the supply chain to estimate the demand for flu vaccines.

“This means that many pharmacies have been unable to offer immunisation for flu for over a month. This is of concern after last year’s deadly influenza outbreak in some parts of the country.

“With the ease of accessibility for the public, pharmacies have struggled to meet customer demand, with suppliers, wholesalers and manufacturers scrabbling to produce the vaccines in time for suitable delivery.

“However, there is no doubt that this has shown the importance of accessibility of vaccination services through pharmacies.”

The accessibility of flu vaccinations delivered by pharmacists has been a great outcome for pharmacy, government, and patients who visit their local community pharmacy every day, the group says.

It advises consumers that there may still be availability of the vaccine via the government’s National Immunisation Program which offers the immunisation to the most vulnerable groups.

According to the ABC, the 2018 flu season is just getting started, with more on the way.

Authorities are continuing to advise people who have not been vaccinated to do so, with NSW Health urging parents to vaccinate children following the death of one child.

Dr Kerry Chant, NSW Chief Health Officer, said from 3 April to 8 July this year 19 children were admitted to The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, 17 of whom contracted influenza A (H1N1).

“We know that 15 of the children were eligible for the free flu vaccine but only two of them had been fully vaccinated against flu,” Dr Chant said.

“This is an important reminder to parents who have not yet vaccinated their children that influenza can be life-threatening and it’s not too late to vaccinate.

“Flu case numbers across the state are starting to rise and influenza A (H1N1), which mostly strikes children and young adults, is the key strain circulating in the community.

“Sadly, we have received the first report this year a child has died from influenza A.”