QUEENSLANDERS will be able to get extra protection against the flu next year with the State Government offering free flu vaccinations to all residents next year.
The $40 million commitment by the State Government is aimed at easing pressure on hospital emergency departments and providing cost-of-living relief.
The program will be rolled out from the start of the 2024 flu season and covers the cost of providing vaccinations to all Queenslanders above the age of six months.
The ongoing initiative is an extension of the free programs that ran during the 2022 and 2023 seasons and saw 912,000 Queenslanders take up the offer.
Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr John Gerrard said the impact of influenza on the Queensland community every 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,” he said.
“Free flu vaccines are already provided to some vulnerable Queenslanders under the National Immunisation Program.
“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.”
Influenza vaccine uptake dropped significantly in 2023 compared to the year prior, with just a third of Queenslanders being vaccinated against the flu.
The program is aimed at encouraging more Queenslanders to be vaccinated against the flu while putting more money back into the pockets of families who do not currently qualify for a free vaccination under the Commonwealth’s National Immunisation Program (NIP).
The NIP limits free flu vaccinations to at-risk people, including children six months to five years, pregnant women, people aged 65 and over, First Nations people, and those with certain medical conditions.
Minister for Health, Mental Health and Ambulance Services Shannon Fentiman said getting vaccinated every year is the best way for people to protect themselves and their loved ones from influenza.
“Extending our free flu program into 2024 will provide Queenslanders with certainty and remove any financial barrier for people wanting to get vaccinated,” she said.
“Only a third of Queenslanders received annual influenza vaccinations this year, and nearly all cases of people presenting to hospital with the flu had not been vaccinated, this puts significant pressure on our emergency departments.
“Making it free from the start of the flu season is designed to help keep people safe and ensure our health system is available for Queenslanders who need it most.
“Ultimately, we would like the flu vaccination to be free for everyone as part of the Commonwealth’s National Immunisation Program and I’ll continue advocating for that.”
The Queensland Government is working with the Federal Government to expand this program even further.
Queenslanders will be able to access free vaccinations at GPs and pharmacies from when the new seasonal flu vaccination becomes available.
There are no changes for people already eligible under the National Immunisation program, who should continue to access influenza vaccine from their usual vaccination providers.