Flu vaccine demand rises

By Yarrawonga Chronicle

Despite the unprecedented demand for the influenza vaccine and nation-wide shortages local medical clinics and pharmacies are still handling local demand. 

Health experts are predicting a record flu season with a sharp rise in cases already recorded than experienced at the same time during 2018. 

The Nationals Member for Ovens Valley, Tim McCurdy is also encouraging all Ovens Valley residents to book in for their flu shot as soon as possible. 

 “There have been well over 10,000 reported cases of influenza in Victoria this year, with 107 reported in the Ovens Valley,” Mr McCurdy said. 

“That’s 51 in Moira, 11 in Alpine and 45 in Wangaratta.” 

Nationally 77,656 cases have been confirmed by laboratories since January 1, well above the five-year average of 11,227 for the same time period. 

Recently, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced an additional 400,000 flu vaccines would be delivered to Australia to keep up with ‘unprecedented demand’, on top of the 12.1 million already released to the market.

Dr Clyde Ronan from Yarrawonga Medical Clinic said private vaccine for the five - 65 age group was currently in nationally limited supply due to the high demand of communities, but the Yarrawonga Medical Clinic still had a good supply of the vaccine.

Publicly funded vaccines are for those who have medical conditions or are aged over 65 years. 

“We personally have a good supply. Access, efficiency, affordability and good recording are our priorities,” Dr Clyde Ronan said.

“This year we have again run our annual flu clinics, 10 so far. Young families and workplace vaccinations typically make an appointment outside of these clinic times for ease of access and so that children enter a less noisy and more supportive environment.

“We have seen a higher demand this year and requests for influenza vaccinations are not easing up.

“We had another flu clinic scheduled for Wednesday afternoon which was fully booked. Demand and vaccine supply will be key factors in how many more clinics we actually do.

“This community has always strongly supported our vaccination programs and the way we have developed delivery by clinics, so that our general practice activities are not impacted.”

Dr Ronan added that concentrating on the influenza vaccine for children was vital. 

“The area we would like to concentrate on more is influenza vaccines for all children which is strongly encouraged by the National Immunisation Program,” Dr Ronan said.

“Children with chronic illnesses such as severe asthma receive a free vaccine. This community had the highest take up of childhood immunisations in Australia in 2012. We can do better for childhood influenza vaccination.

“Scientists in Australia are working on a vaccine that doesn’t require annual updating, but we won’t hold our breath waiting for it.”

Mr McCurdy also advised the community that receiving your flu shot was quick and easy with local pharmacies also offering the flu shot service as well as General Practioners. 

“Protecting yourself from flu is now convenient, quick and easy,” said Mr McCurdy. 

“And it’s important that influenza is taken seriously – 26 people have died with the flu in Victoria so far this year.” 

Terry White Chemmart Yarrawonga are one of the local pharmacies offering the vaccine but have also been stung with a shortage of the vaccination.

“We had run out, but more stock arrived late last week,” Pharmacist Cameron Wood said. 

“Currently there is 200 people on the waiting list, so we advise people to ring first before dropping in however we received around 400 vaccines, so we should be able to take walk ins after the initial waiting list have been vaccinated.

“We have seen a high demand this year due to the media coverage of a number of deaths that have occurred from the flu but it is always fairly popular nonetheless.”

Mr McCurdy added, “Flu is much more than a headache or congested nose that passes in a week. It has potential to leave you seriously unwell and bedridden for weeks,” he said. 

“Influenza can quickly spread from one person to another with the young, the elderly and the sick most at risk. 

“Even if you’re a healthy adult it is still important you receive a vaccination, so we stop the spread of the disease and protect vulnerable people living in our community.”

Mr McCurdy said that in addition to getting a flu shot there are a few other things you can do to stop the spread of this deadly disease.

“Maintain good hygiene by washing your hands regularly, cough or sneeze into your elbow – not your hands, bin your tissues, keep surfaces like your keyboard and phone clean, and stay at home if you have any cold or flu symptoms,” Mr McCurdy said. 

Many members of the community are eligible for free vaccines under the National Immunisation Program including adults over 65 years, adults and children with certain medical conditions, pregnant women and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months and over.

Yarrawonga Denis Medical Group are also providing the flu vaccine which is available at the clinic.