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Louiza Coetzee (r) from Grafton Superclinic Pharmacy, pictured alongside dispensary technician Jenny King, is supportive of pharmacists administering Covid-19 vaccinations. Image: Contributed.

Free flu vaccinations welcomed by pharmacists, but nation-wide solution needed to curb surge

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) welcomes announcements from state governments in South Australia, Western Australia, New South Wales and Victoria that will provide greater access to influenza vaccines for Australians this winter.

Throughout June, people aged five years and over will be able to access a free influenza vaccine from their GP or pharmacist. GPs will continue to administer vaccines to people aged 6 months to five years old.

This follows a similar announcement last week from the Queensland Government.

While PSA National President, A/Prof Chris Freeman, welcomed the announcement, he cautioned more needs to be done to protect Australians this winter, and in future flu seasons.

“Public health teams are rightly alarmed by the surging influenza caseload across the nation. Hospitalisations are already placing strain on stretched health resources. We must act with urgency and work together to vaccinate as many people as possible against influenza as soon as possible.

“I thank the South Australian, Western Australian, New South Wales and Victorian governments for launching free flu vaccine programs following Queensland’s announcement last week. We urge Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory, and the Northern Territory to immediately follow.

“These announcements demonstrate the crucial role that pharmacists continue to play in protecting the health of Australians. We appreciate that these governments are making a critical investment, by remunerating pharmacists for providing this service.

“However, these state-based time-limited programs are only a band-aid for the bigger problem of funding arrangements which have not kept pace with population health needs.

“We need to make it easier for all Australians to be protected against influenza every year, by removing cost barriers currently faced by many Australians.

“It is time for the Federal Government to extend the Medicare Benefits Schedule to fund the costs to patients for administration of National Immunisation Program (NIP) vaccinations by their pharmacist”, A/Prof Freeman said. “PSA has been calling for this for some time.”

PSA also urges the Federal Government to properly fund the administration of all NIP vaccine services provided by a pharmacist, so that our most vulnerable Australians no longer face out-of-pocket expenses.

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