6 June 2022

Free flu jabs for Canberra's concession card-holders from today

| Lottie Twyford
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Rachel Stephen-Smith getting her flu jab

Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith received her flu vaccine at Capital Chemist Kingston on Friday, 29 April. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Flu vaccinations will be free for concession card-holders from today at the ACT Government’s Access and Sensory Vaccination Clinic.

It follows moves from other jurisdictions, including NSW and Victoria, to make the jabs free for the wider population in the face of what health authorities warn could be a difficult winter.

Due to COVID-19-associated border closures and health measures, almost no influenza was recorded in either 2020 or 2021.

Last week, Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith pushed back on calls to make the flu jabs free, saying she did not believe the cost of accessing vaccination was a barrier for the majority of Canberrans.

The Minister also told the Assembly last week that the Territory’s uptake of flu shots was better than in other jurisdictions, and half of Canberrans over the age of 65 were already vaccinated against influenza.

She said the situation would continue to be monitored.

Today the Minister acknowledged the price could be a barrier for Canberrans who essentially fell through the gaps and were not included in the Commonwealth’s National Immunisation Program.

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People eligible under the National Immunisation Program for free vaccination from a GP include:

  • Children aged six months to under five years (also available at ACT Government Early Childhood Immunisation Centres)
  • Pregnant women (also available at antenatal clinics)
  • People aged 65 and older (also available at participating pharmacies)
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months and over, and
  • People aged six months and over with underlying medical conditions.

So far this year (between 1 January and 22 May 2022), ACT Health has received 687 notifications of laboratory-confirmed influenza. However, unlike COVID-19, there is no obligation to test for the flu or report a case to the directorate.

“After two flu seasons with low case numbers, we are seeing more flu cases in our community this year,” Ms Stephen-Smith said in a statement this morning.

“Getting a flu vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and your family.

“I strongly encourage all Canberrans to get a flu vaccination as soon as possible. Anyone who’s eligible for a third or fourth COVID-19 vaccination can also get this at the same time.”

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Bookings for the Access and Sensory Vaccination Clinic in Weston for concession card-holders and their children can be made by phoning 02 5124 3999 between 8 am and 5 pm, Monday to Friday.

Ms Stephen-Smith said the ACT Government would continue to work with community service providers to improve vaccination opportunities for people who might otherwise find it difficult to access a flu vaccine.

A change will also be made to the rules around accessing flu vaccinations at pharmacies to make it easier for families to get their jabs together.

From 8 June 2022, Canberrans aged five and over will be able to get their flu vaccinations from pharmacists. Currently, pharmacists can only administer vaccines to those aged 10 and over.

Original Article published by Lottie Twyford on Riotact.

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