A national shortage of flu vaccine appears not to be creating serious problems in Western Australia.
WA Department of Health spokesperson Chad Martino says WA is currently limiting NIP influenza vaccine order quantities to ensure equitable distribution of supplies.
“To date, the Department of Health has distributed 450,000 doses of free influenza vaccines under the National Influenza Program (NIP),” said Mr Martino.
“This is 15 per cent above the quantity distributed the same time last year.”
Victoria and New South Wales are facing major flu vaccine shortages due to a public push to receive the vaccine after 2017’s deadly influenza season.
According to the Department of Health (DOH), 2017 saw 745 fatalities Australia wide, five times the yearly average since the 2009 flu epidemic.
As a result of this, there has been an unprecedented demand from the public to receive their yearly flu vaccine shot to prevent the disease.
However child and school health nurse Heather Salmeri said the shortages were a good thing as it showed a better public knowledge about the dangers of contracting the influenza.
“People are finally starting to listen to the message that a vaccination will give them a 50-per-cent chance at being protected from the disease,” she said.
Influenza is a highly contagious virus that affects the respiratory system and, when not treated or vaccinated against, can lead to diseases like pneumonia and sepsis.
Typical symptoms in adults include:
- Sudden onset of fever
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- General aches and pains
- Nose, throat and lung congestion
Mrs Salmeri wants to stress the more people vaccinated against influenza, the more people will be protected.
“We’re really aiming for that herd immunity effect,” she said.
“It can attack the sick and it can attack the healthy, it’s not just about those that are vulnerable.”
The people most at risk of contracting the disease are children and babies under five years old, people over the age of 65, the Indigenous population over the age of fifteen, and people with chronic illnesses like asthma, due to the complications that influenza can exacerbate.
The above groups of people are eligible for the free vaccine, however for the rest of the population the vaccine is only $20.
“At some chemists you can even get the vaccine for $10.99,” Mrs Salmeri said
“That is a big deterrent for anyone who says that they can’t afford it.”
The May/June period is also the prime time to receive the flu vaccine, as this gives maximum protection over the flu season.
“The vaccination gives you about four months protection,” she said.
“This year they have encouraged people to start vaccinating now to prepare for the peak season in August.”
Nonetheless Mrs Salmeri said the government has assessed the situation and new vaccines will be coming soon.
“The best thing to do is not to panic,” she said.
To receive your flu shot visit your local GP or for more information visit http://healthywa.wa.gov.au/Articles/F_I/Flu-influenza