Australians living in the state of Queensland will be offered “free” flu vaccines again in 2024 after vaccination rates decline in 2023.
The Palaszczuk Labor government will spend $40 million (US$25.7 million) of taxpayer dollars on the initiative next year.
The Queensland initiative pays for vaccinations for every Queenslander aged more than six months.
Flu Vaccine Uptake DeclinesThe Australian Immunisation Register shows just over 1.8 million Queenslanders received the flu jab between March 1 and Oct. 3 in 2023, down from 2.1 million in the prior corresponding period in 2022.
Nationwide, 9.3 million people had the flu vaccination in this same period, down from nearly 11.1 million in the same months in 2022.
Queensland Health Minister Shannon Fentiman said making the flu vaccine free is designed to “help keep people safe” and ensure the health system is available to Queenslanders who need it most.
The Minister claimed “nearly all cases of people presenting to hospital with the flu had not been vaccinated,” placing “significant pressure” on emergency departments.
“Extending our free flu program into 2024 will provide Queenslanders with certainty and remove any financial barrier for people wanting to get vaccinated.
Push For Vaccine ExpansionThe government is also pushing for an expansion of the national free vaccination program.
The National Immunisation Program (NIP) pays for flu vaccines for children aged six months to five, pregnant women, those over 65, First Nations people, and other at-risk people.
Chief Health Officer Dr. John Gerrard said the impact of influenza on the Queensland community each year is “substantial.”
“Influenza causes disruption in households, schools, and workplaces, increased demand on our health services, as well as severe disease and death in a significant number of Queenslanders,” Dr. Gerrard said.
“Expanding access to flu vaccines has the potential to break the chain of transmission, so I encourage every Queenslander to take advantage of a free flu vaccination.”
The vaccines will be available at pharmacies and GPs as soon as the new seasonal flu vaccination is out in 2024.