WITH the start of the winter flu season already upon us all Queenslanders will be offered a free flu vaccination as the state faces a severe outbreak of Influenza A.
COVID-19 measures had reduced flu cases to almost nil since 2020 but more than 4,000 cases have already been reported in 2022 and cases in Queensland are doubling every week increasing from 1,848 to 4,282 in the past week.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she had taken the unprecedented decision to protect Queenslanders because of the three following reasons:
*Influenza A is predominantly a virus impacting young and old age groups more than others
*Vaccine rates and immunity levels are low
*Case numbers are climbing faster and earlier than expected
Most importantly all of the impacts of COVID-19 including absenteeism, interruptions to supply chains and health services will be duplicated and exacerbated by a simultaneous outbreak of Influenza A.
“We have seen how difficult it has been to fight COVID-19,” the Premier said.
“To fight COVID-19 and the flu is doubly hard and that’s why we are making these flu shots free for everyone.”
Acting Chief Health Officer Dr Peter Aitken said time is of the essence.
“Influenza A is more severe than Influenza B,” Dr Aitken said.
“It leads to greater numbers needing to go to hospital and vaccination rates for children six months to less than five years of age is just six per cent.
“I urge parents of all age groups to please take up this offer of a free vaccine.”
Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said the free vaccines will be available for all Queenslanders aged six months and older.
“Flu vaccines are generally not free except for the most vulnerable,” the Minister said.
“Our 2017 season saw more than 750 people in intensive care and the fact that more than 4,000 cases have already been detected when flu seasons don’t usually begin until late July is very concerning.
“Our best defence is to get as many people vaccinated as possible.”
The Minister also thanked the professional pharmacy and medical bodies for backing this initiative and asked all Queenslanders to be patient and kind to the healthcare providers as this initiative is rolled out across the state.
The vaccines will be available free from GPs and pharmacies from now until the end of June.
For more information go to the Queensland Health website.