Locals will be able to get a free flu vaccine from this weekend, amid a spike in influenza cases across the state.
The jabs will be available from 22 July to 31 August at GPs and pharmacies across Queensland.
The Palaszczuk Government will cover the cost, which is estimated to cost between $5 – 10 million, for providing the vaccination to all Queenslanders, many of whom do not fall within the federally funded national immunisation program.
Influenza cases this year have reached more than 51,426, compared to last year where 44,438 cases were record for the entire year.
In the Mackay HHS area 1811 confirmed infections have been recorded so far this year.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says she doesn’t want there to be a barrier to people getting vaccinated.
“We know the cost of living is a real concern right now, and this will fill the gap for people who don’t qualify for a free vaccination under the federally run national immunisation program,” she says.
“Everyone is susceptible to the flu, and the best way for Queenslanders to protect themselves, their families, and the community is to get vaccinated.”
Chief Health Officer Dr John Gerrard says Influenza B is the dominant strain.
“Influenza B is known to be associated with more severe disease in children, many of whom would never have been exposed to influenza because of COVID-19 restrictions over the past three years,” he says.
“It is equally as important for pregnant women to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their babies.”
Health Minister Shannon Fentiman says children are especially vulnerable.
“Influenza can be deadly – this month – 78 children aged 6 months to 4 years old have been hospitalised this month and only 1 was vaccinated,” she says.
“Alarmingly, around half of the people who have been hospitalised with influenza B this flu season, are under the age of 20.
“We know children are some of the most at risk in our community, so we’ll be working with those health sector experts and the Education Department to make sure we capture the attention of as many families as possible and keep as many kids safe as we can.
“Ideally we want to see the flu vaccination be free for everyone, every year, as part of the national immunisation program, and I’ll be raising this with my state and federal counterparts at the national health minister meeting later this week.”
There are no changes for people already eligible under the National Immunisation program. People eligible under the National Immunisation Program should continue to access influenza vaccine from their usual vaccination providers.
Anyone who has their vaccination booked before Saturday will also receive it for free.