Free flu shot program may be suffering from limited supply, says pharmacist
The Victorian government is offering free flu shots this month as part of a $33million package to help boost coverage, but a pharmacist says supplies are running low.
- The Rural Doctors Association of Victoria says Australia’s collective immune system has been weakened by pandemic restrictions
- UFS Pharmacies operations manager says flu shots are in short supply on the private market
- Victorian president of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia says people who have missed out so far should keep trying
This year’s flu season has been described as unusual, with the public more likely to be vulnerable to the flu after a non-season in 2021.
The free flu vaccination program was developed with the Pharmacy Guild, the Australian Medical Association and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.
But Peter Fell of UFS Pharmacies said the government was relying on private operators and GPs to supply their own vaccine stocks.
“One of the frustrating things about the process is that because the Victorian government is almost the last state government to make this decision, most of the other vaccine supplies had already been picked up by the other states,” he said. -he declares.
Keep trying, says Guild
The Ministry of Health is responsible for the supply and distribution of influenza vaccines for priority people under the National Vaccination Program (PNV).
More than 1.8 million doses have been distributed in Victoria through the NIP, with the remaining supply for this scheme, but GPs and pharmacies are accessing their own stock privately.
“We have to place our orders before Christmas, so there’s often spare stock across the country, but not reliably,” Fell said.
“I think because there’s been a big interstate demand, now a lot of the aftermarket product…has now been sold out.”
Anthony Tassone, president of the Victorian branch of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, encouraged those who had missed bookings to keep trying.
He said the vaccine was vital for protection against the flu.
“Some pharmacies may have low stock levels for patients not eligible for the National Immunization Program,” he said.
“What we encourage patients to do…is try another GP or another pharmacy because it’s very likely you’ll find an appointment.”
During the June free vaccination program, pharmacies and general practitioners will receive a $25 rebate from the state government for each dose administered.
“We think it’s a very good program,” Mr. Tassone said.
“We think it compensates pharmacies appropriately for the work they do…it’s easy to sign up and participate and overall it’s a really positive outcome.”
Rural Doctors Association of Victoria president Rob Phair said the main challenge of this year’s flu season was a weakened collective immune system.
‘We haven’t traveled abroad for the past two and a half years,’ said Dr Phair.
“But now that people are back to business as usual, we’re seeing really big spikes, up 30% in a week.