Only Victoria’s children, elderly and the sick will be able to get the flu vaccine until the federal government can ensure a “solid supply” for all people, the state government says.
Health Minister Jill Hennessy on Wednesday said she was concerned about the availability of the flu vaccine, with record numbers opting for the jab leading to a shortage.
“Until we can get the assurance from the commonwealth government there’s flu vaccine available for all … we’re rationing our flu vaccines for the most vulnerable groups, they are largely people with certain kinds of illnesses, for the elderly and for young children,” Ms Hennessy said.
“But we want the flu vaccine to be available for all and that’s why we have called upon the federal government to get more assertive and organised about ensuring a solid supply.”
Ms Hennessy wrote to the federal government last week about the expected availability of the vaccine and has been told additional orders have been placed and are due to arrive in a couple of weeks.
She said it was vital the government made the flu vaccine free for children aged under five on the National Immunisation Program, as to have a better grasp how many vaccines need to be bought.
“Vaccination saves lives,” Ms Hennessy said.
“What we want to see is the commonwealth government get assertive and organised about ensuring there is a stable supply of the flu vaccine as we are yet to really understand whether or not we are up for a horror flu season again or not.”
It comes after 121 aged care residents suffered flu-related deaths in Victoria last year.
More than five million doses of the seasonal flu vaccine have been brought into Australia under the National Immunisation Program.
Yet an up to 30 per cent demand surge ahead of winter has impacted supplies, federal health authorities said on Monday.
“According to states and territories, compared to last year, there has been a 25-30 per cent increase in demand,” Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Hobbs said in a statement.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration has released 9.6 million doses of influenza vaccines under the immunisation program, state programs and the private market as at Monday.