KeepHealthCare.ORG – HEALTH WARNING: Flu vaccine shortage amid Coast outbreak
AUSTRALIA will combat the flu season, which has come early this year, with 800,000 extra vaccines to help prevent the dreaded annual lurgy.
Sunshine Coast Local Medical Association president Roger Faint said there had been more reported cases of the flu for this time of the year and a larger number of hospitalisations, which could be attributed to several factors.
“We are definitely seeing flu season earlier each year, partly because people are travelling so much more and we’re getting more people from overseas, which is really spreading the flu around,” Dr Faint said.
He said it had been difficult for the medical industry to pinpoint the peak of flu season in the past and time that with administering flu shots.
“We now know that the maximum effect of the flu needle is three months after you have it, and July, August and September is peak flu season,” he said.
“After the three-month peak, it then drops 10 per cent each month. We don’t get 12 months out of it (a flu shot) like we previously thought.
“This way, we get maximum effect out of flu season.”
Recently, some Sunshine Coast residents opting for a private flu jab had been turned away from their local pharmacy, due to a shortage of stock.
“Pharmacies have run out of private flu needles. There’s a real shortage in that area,” Dr Faint said. “These (private flu needles) are doses for people who are fit and healthy and just want a flu needle.”
Health authorities came to the rescue last week, with the announcement of plans to make 243,000 more shots available nation-wide by the end of this week, and another 557,000 by the end of July.
More than half of those doses will be fast-tracked by manufacturers in Melbourne, funded by the Federal Government.
Acting chief medical officer Tony Hobbs said Seqirus Australia Pty Ltd had recommenced production to ensure the National Immunisation Program could meet demand.
The Courier-Mail has reported that a total of 10 million doses of the vaccine have already been released this flu season under the free National Immunisation Program, state programs and the private market. That is an increase of 26.5 per cent on last year, which had the worst flu season on record with more than 250,000 confirmed cases.
Dr Faint said preventing the spread of flu and epidemics was important to ensure instances as occurred last year – where an outbreak killed more than 1100 patients in Australia – would not reoccur.