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Flu campaign support presents supply challenge

12 June, 2018

Supplies of influenza vaccines are becoming short across Australian States and Territories, following unprecedented demand this year.

The shortage is being seen in both the government funded and private areas and across most types of influenza vaccines manufactured by pharmaceutical companies.

Victoria's Chief Health Officer Professor Charles Guest said support for the flu campaign in the wider community has been very positive already, and we now need to manage the demand.

"The increased demand may in part be due to the consequences of the major flu season last year and our advice to Victorians to protect themselves this year by getting immunised.

"In particular, parents have taken steps to protect their children, with strong uptake of vaccination for kids aged 6 months to under five."

Professor Guest said stocks of most influenza vaccines were now exhausted and Victoria was working with the Australian Government and vaccine providers to explore ways to urgently obtain additional supplies.

"The Department is prioritising remaining stocks of vaccine, and has advised immunisation providers to limit further vaccination to those most at risk, which include children aged six months to five years, and people in risk groups under the National Immunisation Program.

"Other groups are pregnant women, people aged 65 years and over, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over, and people with medical conditions predisposing them to severe influenza.

"People in these groups should call ahead to their provider to ascertain if vaccine remains available. It may be necessary to contact an alternative provider as there may be stock in some GP practices and not others in Victoria.

"For people who are not in a risk group for severe complications of influenza or not aged six months to under five years, please wait for updates on the availability of influenza vaccine. Remaining vaccine now needs to be conserved for those who are at greatest need," Prof Guest said.

Victoria has already provided more than 1.5 million doses of the vaccine to immunisation providers for use across the state.

On most days in previous weeks up to 50,000 doses of influenza vaccine have been distributed by the Department of Health and Human Services across the state.

Health Minister Jill Hennessy has written to the Commonwealth Minister for Health asking him to take measures to help improve the supply of influenza vaccines for all groups, especially for the most vulnerable. Vaccine supply is a problem across Australia.

Victoria introduced a program of free influenza vaccines for Victorian children this year, in order to protect them and the wider community.

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