DoH expands free vaccine eligibility ahead of flu season

Anastasia Tsirtsakis

5/03/2020 2:27:00 PM

The Federal Government has said it will secure its largest ever supply of seasonal influenza for people most at risk.

Receiving vaccination
The Federal Government is set to secure the largest supply of seasonal influenza vaccines ever for the NIP to meet this year’s demand.

With news cases of COVID-19 [coronavirus] emerging each day in the lead up to flu season, the anticipated crossover of viruses is expected to result in higher demand for seasonal influenza vaccines in 2020.
To meet the demand, the Department of Health (DoH) is set to secure its largest ever supply of seasonal influenza vaccines for the National Immunisation Program (NIP) for people most at risk. The vaccines will be available from mid-April, subject to local supply.
‘What we do know is that vaccination is the most important measure we have to prevent influenza and its complications and is recommended for all people aged six months and over,’ Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy wrote in a letter to healthcare professionals.
Australia will this year become the first country to offer an adjuvanted quadrivalent influenza vaccine for people aged 65 and older. New age-specific vaccines will also be available for eligible people under the NIP.
The eligibility criteria for free influenza vaccines through the NIP in 2020 include:

  • all people aged six months to younger than five years (this cohort is newly eligible in 2020)
  • all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months and older
  • pregnant women (during any stage of pregnancy)
  • all people aged 65 years and older
  • people aged six months and older with medical conditions that increase the risk of influenza disease complications.
Only one dose of government-funded influenza vaccine is available for eligible people each year, with the exception of children up to nine years of age who are receiving the influenza vaccine for the first time.
Vaccinating from mid-April is advised to achieve the highest level of protection during peak influenza season, which usually occurs from June to September in most parts of Australia.
‘Vaccination should continue to be offered as long as influenza viruses are circulating and a valid vaccine – before expiration date – is available,’ Professor Murphy writes.
While revaccination later in the same year is not routinely recommended, it may benefit some individuals due to personal circumstances, such as those travelling or pregnant.
Ahead of receiving 2020 vaccines, general practices have been advised to ensure 2019 vaccines are discarded when they expire (ranging from 30 November 2019 to 29 February 2020).
Additional information regarding the NIP program will soon be made available through the DoH website.
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