Qld’s free flu jabs a shot in the arm for coverage, but more needs to be done

Queensland’s flu jab drive appears to have lifted the state’s vaccination rate, but experts are calling for more to be done to ensure as many people get the jab as possible.

As of June 13, more than 1. 6 million people had received their flu vaccination in Queensland, through the standard federal program for vulnerable people or the new state-based push.

The state government it would provide free flu vaccinations to all Queenslanders not already eligible through the federal program.

After due to the speed of the announcement, more than 450,000 people have come forward. This is in addition to those who had already received one.

Queensland’s example inspired almost every other state and territory, with the exception of the Northern Territory, to roll out free flu jabs in June.

However, the actual vaccine coverage is still quite low – on current figures, just over 32 per cent of Queensland’s 5. 2 million population has been vaccinated.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Monday she was not disappointed by the take-up, which was greater than previous years.

I think we’re very encouraged by the uptake, she said, but of course I’d like to see more.

Can I encourage Queenslanders, you have until the end of June to go and get your [free] flu vaccine.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said she was anticipating a rush of people wanting the vaccine as the deadline approached.

Queensland has administered an additional 178,000 vaccinations compared to this time last year, which demonstrates many Queenslanders are committed to reducing the severity of this flu season.

No eligible Queenslander should choose to be unvaccinated, especially when the flu vaccine is available for free and is the safest and most effective way to limit the spread of influenza.

GP clinics administer most flu vaccines due to their direct involvement in the national scheme, but pharmacies have been steadily increasing the total.

Chris Owen, the Queensland president of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, said since pharmacies had first been allowed to give flu shots in 2014, people were increasingly using them.

Prior to the announcement of the free flu vaccines, we were probably on par with last year’s flu rate, which was down slightly on previous years, and certainly not on par with 2020, he said.

But once that was announced, we’ve seen a huge spike in the past few weeks to a level that is really unprecedented.

Queensland had a notably bad flu season in 2019, but case numbers were down in 2020 and almost non-existent in 2021 thanks to measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The number of flu vaccinations went up in 2020 as people tried to get protection from disease. They then went down again in 2021, which Owen says was likely caused by complacency stemming from the low number of flu cases.

Vaccine expert Professor Paul Griffin said he suspected a level of vaccine fatigue was at play.

He said the offer of free flu jabs needed to be backed up with more information to ensure as many people as possible got vaccinated.

We need to aim a lot higher than we have already because we need to get our protection from vaccination as we haven’t had it from recent infection, he said.

We need to back up funding with more information, that’s where we’re falling short. We need people to understand why it is so important to get the vaccine this year, and understand that it’s safe and effective.

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