Getting the flu vaccine has become easier and more convenient for those who need it most, with hundreds of pharmacies now included in the National Immunisation Program (NIP) in South Australia for the first time.
Hundreds of thousands of South Australians – including those aged 65 years and over, pregnant women, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 10 years and over – can roll up their sleeves and receive a flu shot at their local pharmacy.
More than 220 pharmacies have signed up to the program, including 73 outlets in regional and remote areas across the state.
The expansion means more choice for eligible patients who previously had to rely on seeing their GP or council clinic to get the potentially lifesaving jab through the NIP.
Labor first called for the provision of NIP influenza vaccines in March 2020 – 26 months ago – because South Australia was behind other states. WA, Victoria and ACT previously provided pharmacists with access to the state’s free vaccines.
The government-funded vaccines are free, but pharmacies may charge a service fee for each vaccination, which must be disclosed to patients.
It’s hoped greater accessibility will, in turn, boost influenza vaccination rates and reduce the number of cases in the community while reducing pressure on hospitals – already on the rise this year with international travel returning and COVID restrictions easing.
The rollout comes as hospitals continue to be under pressure, with SA Ambulance data showing a small reduction in ramping in April with 78.5 hours less ramping than March 2022. Ramping in April 2022 was 2632 hours, down 2.9% from March.
Ramping across the metro area increased by 78% from February to March 2022, in the final weeks of the Liberal Government.
The latest SA Health data shows there have been 371 influenza cases detected in 2022, compared to 12 at the same time in 2021.
Flu shots have also been made available at major COVID vaccination clinics for people aged 65 years and over.
Attributable to Minister for Health and Wellbeing Chris Picton
Giving our most vulnerable South Australians more choice and easier access in protecting themselves against influenza is welcome news ahead of winter.
Pharmacies offer a convenient option to many patients who want to get the vaccine in a way that best suits them.
The rollout of this program will help encourage the wider public to roll up their sleeves, especially those living in regional and remote parts of our state.
The more people who can protect themselves from both COVID and the flu this winter, the more people we can keep healthy and reduce pressure on our hospitals.
Attributable to SA Health Director of Communicable Disease Control Branch Dr Louise Flood
Pharmacies are well established in providing vaccines and continue to play a key role in protecting the public against COVID-19.
This expansion will only build on that public confidence and allow them to join GPs in helping boost flu vaccine rates, which will help save lives.
We have already seen a rise in flu cases this year, so we are strongly encouraging all South Australians to get their influenza vaccine as soon as they can