As the 2019 influenza season comes to an end, new flu-notification figures highlight that it has been the worst on record, surpassing the most recent peak year of 2017.
In 2017, there were about 250,000 flu notifications, compared with this year’s 302,000.
“This year 812 people tragically lost their lives to the flu nationally,” Pharmacy Guild National President George Tambassis said.
He added that the only effective way to prevent flu is through vaccination.
Given the success of community pharmacists in bolstering vaccination rates, the Guild has called for the National Immunisation Program (NIP) to be extended to community pharmacies across the country – where free vaccines are funded for those in ‘at risk’ groups, such as those aged over 65 or asthma sufferers.
In Victoria, where the NIP has been available in pharmacies since 2017, there were fewer flu deaths as a proportion of total flu cases, and the state’s flu notification rates were lower than in other comparable states, including NSW and Queensland.
This year’s is only the third flu season in which pharmacists have been able to administer the flu vaccination in every state and territory. In Victoria, Western Australia, and Tasmania, children as young as 10 are eligible to receive their flu shot from community pharmacists.
“Thanks to the affordability and convenience of a ‘walk-in’ appointment, more than two million Australians chose to get their flu vaccination from a pharmacist this year,” Mr Tambassis said.
“While the role of pharmacists in mitigating the severity of the 2019 flu season should not be underestimated, we need to be doing all we can to vaccinate more people.”