Improving access to government-funded flu vaccines

The Marshall Liberal Government is exploring opportunities to further improve access to government-funded seasonal flu vaccines for older South Australians.

Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said an expert advisory group is being established to consider the expansion of the distribution of National Immunisation Program (NIP) influenza vaccines for people aged 65 years and over to South Australian community pharmacies from next year.

“This is the population group that is most at risk of complications from the flu, yet they are not able to access their free vaccine from a pharmacy,” Minister Wade said.

“While general practitioners (GPs) are and will remain the central point for immunisation, the advisory group will explore the opportunity to provide older South Australians with improved convenience, access and choice.

“Today’s announcement follows on from our announcement earlier this week that South Australia wants to engage regional, rural and remote pharmacies to provide the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Community pharmacists are trained vaccinators who have a trusted track record of providing safe, effective and valued immunisation services to South Australians.”

Pharmacies in Western Australia, Victoria and the ACT can administer the Commonwealth Government-funded NIP vaccines to people aged 65 years and over, following successful pilot programs.

Currently, pharmacies in South Australia cannot access these vaccines and instead need to purchase them from private providers. Pharmacies typically charge patients $14-$20 to administer these vaccines, although some private health insurers cover this cost.

Emeritus Professor Lloyd Sansom has been appointed as the independent chair of the Community Pharmacy NIP Access Advisory Group, which will provide expert advice to the Government on options for a safe and effective model for pharmacists to administer NIP vaccines.

Chief Pharmacist Naomi Burgess says pharmacists have already proven to be safe and effective administrators of the flu vaccine for paying clients over the age of 10 and this is helping to drive up immunisation rates.

“South Australia and Western Australia led the way in 2015, becoming the first states to allow pharmacists to administer flu vaccines. Other states have since followed our lead,” Ms Burgess said.

“Extending access to NIP vaccines to pharmacies will support increased immunisation coverage and reduce the number of cases of disease that are preventable by vaccination in South Australia.

“Many people value the timeliness and convenience pharmacies can offer. Being able to walk in off the street and have a flu shot has seen a huge boost in the number of people vaccinated across Australia and resulted in many people having a flu shot for the first time.”

GPs, pharmacists and immunisation providers will be consulted on the proposal ahead of next year’s flu season.

Background:

So far this year, more than 517,360 funded influenza vaccines have been distributed to immunisation providers – enough to vaccinate 77 percent of the total eligible population.

Approximately 310 GP providers in South Australia have ordered influenza vaccines this season and 282 GP providers are registered to provide COVID-19 vaccines.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia reports that in 2020, community pharmacies administered approximately three million flu vaccines Australia-wide.

There have been 16 cases of influenza notified in South Australia this year, compared to 1551 at the same time last year.

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