NSW is the last state to offer free flu shots as health authorities continue to sound the alarm about a dangerous flu season just around the corner.
Flu vaccines will be available free of charge to everyone in NSW in June.
In addition, to encourage uptake, the state allows general practitioners and pharmacists to administer injections to anyone aged five and over (from 10 years).
NSW chief health officer Dr. Kerry Chant said 1140 cases of respiratory illness were reported last week, compared with 766 the previous week and 150 presentations and hospital admissions.
“We urge anyone over six months to get a flu shot as soon as possible to protect themselves and their loved ones, as the virus spreads easily and can be fatal,” said Dr. Chant.
“This is especially important for people in risk groups, such as the elderly and children aged six months to five years. If you live in an aged care or disabled care facility, are over 65, or are immunocompromised, now is the time to apply.
“We also recommend a COVID-19 winter booster if you qualify, as both flu and COVID-19 vaccines can be given simultaneously.”
Victoria is also considering a similar arrangement, with the Victorian president of the Australian Medical Association, Roderick McRae, confirming an announcement was expected this week.
He said the association was working with the state government to establish a realistic timeline and approach for vaccine distribution.
“It is a major investment by the Victorian Government in the health and well-being of all Victorians,” said Dr. McRae Monday.
“It is a safe vaccine… [and] I would encourage everyone to have it.”
Queensland was the first state to make flu vaccines free, extending the offer to everyone six months and older.
Western Australia and South Australia followed over the weekend.
WA residents of all ages can get free flu shots starting Wednesday at state-run clinics or participating pharmacies and primary care physicians.
People over five in South Australia can get their free vaccine from their local GP or pharmacy.
SA Prime Minister Peter Malinauskas said his state’s program was expected to cost $4.9 million.
“The twin challenge of widespread COVID-19 and community flu over the winter threatens to put further strain on a hospital system that already faces significant demand,” Malinauskas said on Sunday.
“We must do everything we can to ensure that as many South Australians as possible are vaccinated against COVID and flu to ease the pressure on our hospitals.”
There have been 1,195 confirmed flu cases in SA this year, compared to 12 points in the same period last year.
WA had 194 flu cases in 2022; only about 20 percent of Western Australians have received their flu shot this year.
“After two years of very low flu cases, I would urge all Western Australians to curl up now to protect themselves from the worst of winter,” said WA Prime Minister Mark McGowan.