Heard about the Queensland government’s free flu vaccine program?
The free jab will be available for the next six weeks. Here’s how the initiative works.
The state government on Monday announced all Queenslanders aged six to 64 would be able to access a free influenza vaccine from their GP or pharmacy from May 24 to June 30.
It comes as the state faces a severe outbreak of influenza A, with more than 7,800 cases reported this year.
The outbreak has prompted Queensland acting chief health officer Peter Aitken to urge people to wear masks again.
Most pharmacies are offering influenza vaccine bookings on their individual websites.
If your nearest pharmacy is a member of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, you can find the next available booking nearby on the Guild’s new website www.qldfreevax.com.au.
To find your nearest available vaccine appointment, enter your suburb and the website lists the next available bookings at community pharmacies near you.
Pharmacy Guild Australia Queensland president Chris Owen said there had been a tremendous uptick in the past three days since the free flu jab program was announced.
A Pharmacy Guild Australia spokesperson urged people to be patient, with the offer of free vaccinations open until the end of June.
In most cases you can book an appointment with your local GP online through their individual website, or by phoning the clinic.
Australian Medical Association Queensland council of general practice chair Maria Boulton said people could book in at their GP the same way they did every year.
She said GP clinics had pre-ordered vaccines so they had enough vaccine stock and continued to order stock where needed.
“It’s really essential for people who are vulnerable, older people, young kids, people with chronic illness, they’re the ones that need to make sure they get a vaccine, we don’t want them to miss out,” Dr Boulton said .
“We need them to come forward and get their vaccines, they’re so important and in the mad rush for everybody to get one, and it’s important for everyone to get one, but we can’t forget about vulnerable patients.”
Who is eligible?
Anyone in Queensland aged six to 64 is eligible for a free influenza vaccine under the state government’s scheme.
It doesn’t change anything for anyone who was already eligible for a free influenza vaccine under the National Immunization Program, such as children between six months and five years old, people 65 and older, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, pregnant women and people with medical conditions.
Will there be enough supply of the vaccine?
Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said Queensland Health had consulted with peak representatives who had said there was an adequate supply of influenza vaccine stock.
“We have said to GPs and pharmacies, if there does become a shortage of stock, we are happy to supplement that, and do what we can to get the vaccines out, particularly in the regions if they have got slower supply chains to make sure they don’t run out,” she said.
Mr Owen said the guild believed pharmacies could cope with the demand.
“I did talk to a lot of the manufacturers and wholesalers at the start of the week and they didn’t seem to have any long term concerns,” he said.
“But they did say that getting that stock to the pharmacies and to the GP clinics, in the first couple of days might be a challenge, so that’s probably what we’re experiencing now, just a temporary shortage.”
Hold ups to booking
Ms D’Ath said in state parliament earlier this week that people had been flooding GPs and pharmacies across the state for appointments.
The free flu jabs announcement caught GPs and some community pharmacies unaware with some hearing about the vaccine program via the news, social media and through patients.
Phones were ringing hot for bookings but some staff at medical practices were unsure whether they could administer their privately bought vaccines already in stock already.
They were concerned they could be left-out-of pocket but Queensland Health confirmed they would be reimbursed.
The medical association, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and The Australian Association of Practice Managers have since said medical practices should have been informed about the program before it was announced.