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NSW discusses free flu shots as “horror season” puts hospitals under pressure

NSW is considering offering free flu vaccines amid a sharp spike in flu cases, while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to put significant pressure on NSW hospitals.
Presentations at the emergency department about the flu have become more frequent as staff continue to fall victim to viruses.
On average, about 2,000 workers are missing from hospitals a day.
After two years with few cases, Health Secretary Brad Hazard says the “flu horror season” has “struck New Wales earlier and harder than it has for years”.

“It’s absolutely important that you go and get the flu vaccine as soon as possible,” he said.


This year, 14,812 cases of influenza were registered and 3,349 were referred to the emergency department for influenza-like illnesses at NSW, a third of them last week.
More than 8,000 COVID cases were reported on Tuesday, 1,234 people are in hospital with the virus, 38 of them in intensive care.
Last week, more than 1,100 people were hospitalized due to the flu, 150 were hospitalized and six were in the intensive care unit.
Health Minister Susan Pierce said the double blow from the resurgence of influenza in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic had put emergency departments “under considerable pressure”.
This also happens when the health care system tries to bridge the gap in planned operations.
“Please do not call the ‘triple zero’ and do not contact the emergency department for urgent matters,” she said.
“We urge the community to support us in this difficult time, making sure that those in need of emergency care can get it by rescuing ambulances and ambulances to save lives,” she said.

Anyone who is unsure whether to go to the hospital should visit healthdirect.gov.au or call Healthdirect at 1800 022 222.

Chief pediatrician Matt O’Mear said children between the ages of six months and five are particularly vulnerable to the flu, with at least 10 percent of children in hospitals with the virus so ill that they need intensive care.
Of the 165 children under the age of five who were admitted to hospital with influenza-like illness last week, 27 were hospitalized.
“Parents can reduce the risk of this by simply vaccinating their child,” Dr. O’Meare said.
About 11 percent of children under the age of five in NSW have been vaccinated and about 51 percent of people aged 65 and older.
Both groups are eligible for free vaccines, as are Aboriginal and Torres Strait residents of any age over the age of six months, as well as people who have serious illnesses or are pregnant.
NSW Director of Public Health Pathology Dominique Dwyer told the AAP news agency that it is important to reduce any barriers to getting the vaccine to increase uptake.
“It could be things like having a vaccine, where you can get vaccinated, the cost of vaccinations and all that,” Professor Dwyer said.
Queensland announced Monday that it will provide free vaccines to everyone for a month.

“This is an example of a strategy you can adopt to try to increase the amount of vaccination … you need a combination of approaches to get vaccinated,” Professor Dwyer said.

Free flu vaccines in Queensland

The Queensland government announced Monday that it is offering free vaccines to prevent a projected increase in hospitalizations due to the flu outbreak, which reached 4,282 cases on Monday.

Ten people are in intensive care and 151 are in hospital due to an acute form of the flu that has not erupted in Queensland for five years.

Greens are calling for free flu vaccines in South Australia

In South Australia, the Greens have called on the state government to make the flu vaccine free for all amid rising cases.
Green House MP Robert Sims said the state should follow Queensland’s example to help limit the spread of flu in the winter.
“It seems the flu season is back in full swing. The numbers are rising, and it’s important SA is doing its best to curb the spread,” Mr Sims said.
“Given the huge impact of the spread of influenza on health and the economy, it makes sense to follow the example of Queensland.
“Although the vaccine is available in many workplaces and is free for some vulnerable groups, we cannot risk South Australians failing through the cracks.”

SA Health said that from January 1 to May 14 this year, there were 727 flu notifications compared to 12 cases over the same period last year.


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