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Flu vaccines to be conserved as Australia waits on extra doses to address shortage


Paul Hayes


28/05/2018 10:36:34 AM

GPs have been advised to prioritise their existing flu vaccines for vulnerable patients in the face of a continuing national shortage triggered by unprecedented demand.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Professor Charles Guest has said remaining vaccines should be saved for those people who are ‘at greatest need’. (Image: Alex Murray/AAP)
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Professor Charles Guest has said remaining vaccines should be saved for those people who are ‘at greatest need’. (Image: Alex Murray/AAP)

Some health authorities have recommended GPs and other immunisation providers reserve their diminishing supplies of flu vaccine for vulnerable patients ahead of the flu season.
 
These high-risk patients include:

  • children aged between six months and five years
  • pregnant women
  • people older than 65
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 and older with medical conditions that could make more vulnerable to the flu (eg severe asthma, diabetes, heart disease).
Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Anthony Hobbs said the Federal Government has ordered an additional 800,000 vaccines in response to increasing shortages, including 500,000 to be manufactured in Victoria.
 
These 800,000 doses are expected to become available in the coming months, with Dr Hobbs saying they will arrive in time to cover the peak influenza period of August and September.
 
‘Vaccinating in June and July provides sufficient time for immunity to develop,’ Dr Hobbs said. ‘We will continue to monitor the supply of influenza vaccines and we will secure further doses if required.’
 
Dr Hobbs also said an extra 93,000 doses of an enhanced trivalent vaccine, designed for people older than 65, have been secured and are now being distributed, while another 150,000 doses of the quadrivalent vaccine will arrive in Australia by end of this week and be ‘distributed as quickly as possible to vaccination providers around the country’.
 
These extra doses come on the heels of the 9.6 million doses the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has already released to private and state immunisation programs in 2018. The overall supply for this year is now said to be a 26.5% increase on last year.
 
It is estimated that demand for flu vaccine is up between 25–30% in 2018. Demand has outstripped supply in the wake of a 2017 horror flu season that killed more than one thousand people in Australia. While this year’s flu season is yet to start, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Professor Charles Guest said time will tell whether it will be as bad as last year’s.
 
‘So far we’ve had a low season but it’s far too early to tell. We don’t really see the peaks until July, August, September,’ he said.



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