17 July, 2023

Free Flu Jab for everyone

THE State Government has announced that all Queenslanders will be offered a free flu vaccination, amid a spike in influenza cases across the state.

Free Flu Jab for everyone - feature photo

Free influenza vaccinations will be available from July 22 to August 31 at GPs and pharmacies across Queensland.

The State Government will cover the cost, which is estimated at $5 - 10 million, for providing the vaccination to all Queenslanders, many of whom do not fall within the federally funded national immunisation program.

Influenza cases this year have reached more than 51,426 cases, compared to last year where 44,438 cases were recorded for the entire year.

Influenza B is causing severe disease in some children. Since July 1, 78 children aged 6 months to four years old were hospitalised with flu – 50 with the B strain, and only one of these children were vaccinated.

The Health Minister met with professional pharmacy and medical bodies to ensure all bodies could work together to help roll out the free program.

There are no changes for people already eligible under the National Immunisation program. People eligible under the National Immunisation Program should continue to access influenza vaccine from their usual vaccination providers.

Anyone who has their vaccination booked before Saturday will also receive it for free.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said health experts have told us that this strain of Influenza B is particularly severe, and that vaccination rates in Queensland are low.

“I don’t want there to be any barriers to getting the flu jab, which is why I am reinstating free flu vaccinations for all Queenslanders,” she said.

“We know the cost of living is a real concern right now, and this will fill the gap for people who don’t qualify for a free vaccination under the federally run national immunisation program.

“Everyone is susceptible to the flu, and the best way for Queenslanders to protect themselves, their families, and the community is to get vaccinated.”

Minister for Health, Shannon Fentiman, said the government needed to make the flu vaccine as accessible as possible.

“Influenza can be deadly – this month  78 children aged six months to four years old have been hospitalised and only one was vaccinated.,” Ms Fentiman said.

“Alarmingly, around half of the people who have been hospitalised with influenza B this flu season, are under the age of 20. 

“We know children are some of the most at risk in our community, so we’ll be working with those health sector experts and the Education Department to make sure we capture the attention of as many families as possible and keep as many kids safe as we can. 

“Ideally we want to see the flu vaccination be free for everyone, every year, as part of the national immunisation program, and I’ll be raising this with my state and federal counterparts at the national health minister meeting later this week.

“We also need to see a greater advertising and awareness program as part of the national immunisation program, so people know to get vaccinated.”

Chief Health Officer, Dr John Gerrard, said he was very concerned about the increase in influenza B cases and the high rate of unvaccinated patients, particularly with school recently resuming and the peak of winter approaching.

“Influenza B is now the dominant strain and causing severe illness in otherwise healthy Queenslanders, particularly young people,” Dr Gerrard said.

“Queensland has recorded 15,039 influenza B cases in 2023. The last outbreak of the B strain was in 2019 when 12,950 cases were reported.

“There have been three times more hospital admissions for influenza B than influenza A in children aged less than five years.

“Influenza B is known to be associated with more severe disease in children, many of whom would never have been exposed to influenza because of COVID-19 restrictions over the past three years.

“It is equally as important for pregnant women to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their babies.”


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