Huge demand for flu shot causes rationing

RATIONING flu shots for the country's most vulnerable has kicked in because of unprecedented demand for the jab.

Health authorities say they have been a victim of their own success, with doctors, the Australian Medical Association and governments' push to encourage people to get vaccinated working so well they now can't keep up.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)'s 10 million dose supply has already proved insufficient a week out from winter.

About half of those are for people who are entitled to get the vaccination for free, with the other half licenced for use in the rest of the community.

Australian Medical Association president Dr Michael Gannon said the shortage was patchy around the country.

"Everyone wants one and we're aware of shortages in some areas," Dr Gannon said.

"In many ways it's a story of being victim of your own success.

"If there's any problem with delivering that supply in the next couple of weeks we will prioritise supplies in high risk people."

Dr Gannon said people should contact their GP to get an idea when stocks would be available.

High risk people include the elderly, children, pregnant women, those with medical conditions, and Aboriginal people over the age of 15.

In 2017, the TGA released 8.3 million doses, and even though that figure has increased, so too has the number of people wanting a shot, up a record 30 per cent on last year.

States to so far report a shortage include New South Wales and Victoria.

NSW Health has distributed almost two million doses of state and national program influenza

vaccines, around half a million more than in 2017.

Arrangements are under way to bring in more supplies.

Elderly and young children are among the most at risk of flu and are urged to get vaccinated.
Elderly and young children are among the most at risk of flu and are urged to get vaccinated.

Australia's Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Hobbs said they were working closely with states and territories to monitor availability of vaccines.

The department is also working closely with company suppliers to ensure additional vaccines are brought into Australia.

In 2017, record numbers of Australians were diagnosed with influenza and more than 1100 flu-related deaths were recorded.

A fast-mutating and evolving strain of influenza A (H3N2) and an early start to the flu season defied efforts to stop the spread of the disease.

Some elderly residents in Queensland are getting two flu shots to combat the virus.

One of the biggest reasons people have given as to why they are not getting the jab is believing it doesn't work or that it actually causes you to get sick.

But experts have also cleared up those myths.

Influenza experts are expecting only a mild to moderate flu season in 2018.

Dr Kerry Chant, NSW Chief Health Officer, said there was no indication there would be a repeat of last year's deadly winter.

"Influenza activity remains low in NSW and there is no indication of an early start to the flu season," she said.

"NSW Health is working closely with the Australian Department of Health to manage the

influenza vaccine supplies provided under the National Immunisation Program and we expect

additional supplies of some vaccines from overseas within a fortnight.

"All vaccine supplies for adults under the National Immunisation Program are constrained at this point.

"As a precaution, we're restricting the quantities of vaccines we're distributing to GPs.

NSW Health's supply of vaccine for children six months to under three is not affected, and because controls in place for that kind they expect that supply will be sufficient to meet demand."

The Department of Health said additional doses of TIVs (trivalent influenza vaccines) and QIVs (quadrivalent influenza vaccines) will soon be made available through the National Immunisation Program.

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