Major problem with state’s flu vaccine
QUEENSLAND parents are struggling to find influenza vaccines for their children with a national shortage of the lifesaving jab sparked by last year's horror flu season.
Pharmacy supplies of influenza vaccine for people aged five and up have begun to dwindle, with many unable to restock and others facing a four-to-six-week wait as the flu season peak looms.
One Brisbane mum reportedly visited six pharmacies in the southeast before she was able to find a vaccine for her six-year-old son and another dad said it took him hours to find a pharmacy that could fill prescriptions for his children ahead of a GP appointment.
While supplies are still available for the National Immunisation Program, which provides free vaccines for children under five and adults over 65, parents are now struggling to track down the jab for children five and older.
Mount Gravatt Chemist Warehouse pharmacist Justin Yang said he'd been unable to restock the vaccine for months. "The demand is just too high this time," he said.
"We got some (vaccine in) March, but since then we can't get more from the supplier. This is the first time this has happened."
Pharmacy Guild of Australia spokesman Greg Turnbull said supply was patchy.
"It's a problem across Australia," he said.
"The stocks are ordered before the season on best estimates of demand and because there was a bad season last year and a lot of publicity this year, the demand has been higher than expected."
But Queensland's Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said the Government had enough stock to supply the National Immunisation Program, which provides the flu jab free to high-risk groups, including young children and over-65s.
"We have already issued 47 per cent more influenza vaccine than at the same time last year," Dr Young said.
A Federal Government spokesman said they had secured an extra 950,000 flu doses, with the 8.3 million vaccines issues in 2017 rising to almost 11 million this year.
"All of these vaccines are expected to be available ahead of the anticipated peak period of seasonal influenza transmission, which is usually August or September," he said.
Australian Medical Association of Queensland president Dr Dilip Dhupelia about 4500 Queenslanders had already been diagnosed with the flu this year with 80 to 100 new notifications each week on average.
"It's about on par at this stage with the (severity) of last year and it is ramping up to the peak which is usually around July, August, September," he said.
"I guess those increased efforts have provided some shortages in areas especially in the private sector (but) it's never too late to get the flu jab and more supplied should be here in the next four to six weeks."
Melbourne-based influenza vaccine manufacturer Seqeris has been tasked with producing an extra 500,000 doses of the vaccine for the National Immunisation Program and vice president of operations Chris Larkins said it was all hands on deck to meet the enormous demand.
"We're hoping we will have all the doses out there by mid-July," Mr Larkins said.
"It takes a number of eggs to produce a single dose of vaccine and at the moment we're getting over 450,000 eggs every day through to the plant."