03/03/2020 | Michelle Lensink MLC | Better Services

Influenza shots will now be made available free to South Australia’s homeless ahead of this winter, as the State Liberal Government moves to further boost public health.

Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said the new initiative was another step towards boosting public immunity levels and easing the pressure on the state’s emergency departments as the flu season creeps closer.

“Every year we see a high number of people present to the emergency departments with the flu, so the State Government is taking a proactive step to protect some of our most vulnerable in the community,” Minister Wade said.

“With the current spread of COVID-19 across the globe, it is even more important this year that we protect as many people as possible through the flu shot to reduce the spread of all preventable diseases.

“We know vaccination is the most effective way to prevent illness such as the flu and everyone should be able to access healthcare regardless of their living situation.

“While the flu vaccination won’t provide immunisation from COVID-19, the healthier a person is the more able they are to fight such an infection.”

Flu shots are also free for all children from 6 months to five years of age, people aged 65 years and over, all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, pregnant women, and people with other chronic conditions such as heart disease or respiratory issues.

Minister for Human Services Michelle Lensink said there was a range of misconceptions about homelessness and how it impacts the health and wellbeing of individuals.

“It is estimated that South Australia has about 6,200 people defined as homeless state-wide, which can encompass a range of different living situations such as sleeping rough, living in supported accommodation for the homeless or living in improvised dwellings such as tents,” Minister Lensink said.

“People who are homeless often have a number of barriers between themselves and access to healthcare and this is an extremely positive step towards removing some of those obstacles.”

The Department for Health and Wellbeing Chief Public Health Officer, Assoc. Prof Nicola Spurrier, said providing flu vaccinations to people who are homeless will help protect them from the flu and also importantly help stop the spread of influenza within the community.

“Immunisation not only protects individuals but also others in the community by increasing the level of overall immunity and minimising the spread of disease,” Assoc. Prof Spurrier said.

“All GPs and immunisation providers will be able to offer the flu vaccinations to people who are homeless, with drop-in services such as Street Link Youth Health Service and RDNS able to provide the vaccine also.

“While it’s not possible to predict the severity of a flu season, we are urging all South Australians to be vigilant in protecting themselves against the flu this year through vaccinations and good hand hygiene, which will in turn also help minimise the impact of COVID-19.

Providers can order vaccines to provide to people who are homeless through the Vaccine Distribution Centre in the Immunisation Section, SA Health, free of charge.

For more information please contact the SA Health Communicable Disease Control Branch on 1300 232 272.