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NSW to offer free flu vaccinations for all residents amid a sharp increase in influenza cases

All residents in NSW will be able to receive a free flu jab at GPs and pharmacies between 1 June and 30 June.

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said there were 1,140 cases of respiratory illness notified this week, compared with 766 in the previous week and 150 presentations and admissions to hospitals.

“We strongly urge everyone over six months of age to get a flu shot as soon as possible to protect themselves and their loved ones, as the virus is easily spread and potentially deadly,” Dr Chant said.

“This is particularly important for those in high-risk groups, such as the elderly and children aged six months to five years. If you live in an aged or disability care facility, are aged over 65 or are immunocompromised, now is the time to book in.
“We also recommend a COVID-19 winter booster if you are eligible, as both flu and COVID-19 vaccines can be given at the same time.”
Over the weekend, Western Australia and South Australia announced similar policies.

WA residents of all ages will be able to receive their free influenza jab from Wednesday at state-run clinics or participating pharmacies and GPs.

People aged over five in South Australia can go to their local GP or pharmacy to get their free vaccine.

SA Premier Peter Malinauskas said his state’s program was expected to cost $4.9 million.

“The dual challenge of broad community spread of COVID-19 and influenza at the same time during winter threatens to put further pressure on a hospital system already facing significant demand,” Mr Malinauskas said in a statement on Sunday.

“We must do everything we can to ensure as many South Australians as possible are immunised against both COVID and influenza to ease pressure on our hospitals.”
There have been 1,195 confirmed cases of influenza in SA this year, compared with 12 cases for the same period last year.

WA has had 194 flu cases in 2022, with only about 20 per cent of West Australians receiving their flu jab so far this year.

“After two years of very low flu cases, I would urge all Western Australians to roll up to protect themselves now before the worst of winter,” WA Premier Mark McGowan said in a statement.

It comes after Queensland made influenza vaccines free to all people aged six months and over.

In NSW they’ll be free of charge via GPs and pharmacists for those five years and above during June while Victoria is considering a similar arrangement and other states and territories are likely to follow.
NSW Pharmacy Guild president David Heffernan said on Sunday the state’s decision to go ahead with the program underlined its commitment to protecting residents in what is emerging as a very severe flu season.

“Harnessing the vaccinating capacity of community pharmacists is crucial to tackling all avoidable hospitalisations,” he said.

COVID-19 deaths on the rise

COVID-19 deaths are again on the rise with Australia recording 88 fatalities over the weekend.

Victoria reported more than 7,300 new virus cases and 16 deaths on Sunday, NSW more than 6,500 infections and four fatalities.

There were 3,047 cases in Queensland and two deaths, 7,100 infections and seven deaths in Western Australia and one death in Tasmania.

This follows the nation having reported 58 deaths in total on Saturday along with almost 34,000 cases.

Australia’s active virus caseload is almost 305,000, with more than 2,700 patients recovering in hospitals.
Meanwhile, one of Australia’s leading charities warns the effect of COVID-19 on children’s education is not over.

A survey from the Smith Family has found one in two parents and carers feel the pandemic is still making learning difficult for their children.

Roughly three-quarters of parents and carers worry about their children’s future schoolwork and have struggled to help them during the pandemic.

Two-thirds say the virus has made it hard to start school this year.

The report comes as the charity kicks off its latest winter appeal, hoping to raise $5.4 million nationally to support 12,000 students through mentoring and after-school programs.