It’s heading towards that time of year, when many of us are knocked down by the dreaded flu.
Coughing, sneezing, sore throat, runny nose, muscle aches – yes we’re also feeling exhausted just being reminded of it.
The flu season typically peaks around August but there’s already been more than 2,000 cases of influenza confirmed in Queensland this year, that’s double the average amount across the last five years. And, let’s not forget the people who push through without seeing a doctor!
A government-subsidised vaccination was supposed to be available by March 20, but Health Minister Cameron Dick has confirmed the roll out through GPs won’t be complete until the end of April.
The vaccine shortage is being blamed on changes to the formula (it now covers four strains of influenza instead of three), which will delay supplies for at least two weeks.
Mr Dick has called for a review, saying he’s concerned about problems with the availability of vaccines in Queensland.
He told The Courier-Mail: “we would have preferred to begin the rollout of the flu vaccine earlier but we have only just received our supply through the Federal Government.”
But, health authorities said in the Brisbane Times the vaccine is actually “available now and government bureaucracy is likely to blame” for the lag in distribution to the public health system.
Do we need to worry about the delay?
Both the State Government and Australian Medical Association of Queensland (AMAQ) are concerned the delay will push already soaring influenza numbers higher, but they don’t believe it’s cause for alarm.
A similar delay happened in 2015, and subsequently Queensland suffered through one of its worst flu seasons in years.
Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley told ABC News: “there were 90,000 reported flu cases last year, that’s 25,000 higher than the previous record.”
However, the AMAQ is attributing the spike in Queensland to an unexpected surge in a particular strain of influenza (appropriately known as the Brisbane virus) that wasn’t covered in the 2015 vaccine, but is included in this year’s needle.
The Federal Department of Health has also released a statement saying it’s confident there’ll be enough time for people to be vaccinated before the flu season peaks.
Who’s eligible for the free flu vaccine?
When it does become available to Queenslanders, the Government provides the jab, at no cost to people it deems most at risk. Those include:
- People aged 65 years and over
- Pregnant women
- The chronically ill
- Young children
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
If you don’t fall into one of the subsidised categories, you’ll likely pay between $15 and $20 for it. You may have some questions about why to get vaccinated, the Department of Health has plenty of information available on its website.