Tasmania will roll out free flu vaccinations at GPs and pharmacies for a month after the health department called for an urgent lift in jab rates.
The island state follows the lead of most mainland jurisdictions, which are offering the influenza shot without cost at the health facilities.
“Vaccination, particularly of vulnerable Tasmanians, is key in protecting our community from the severe consequences of influenza and avoiding overwhelming our hospitals this winter,” premier and health minister Jeremy Rockliff told state parliament on Thursday.
The free flu shots will be available for four weeks from June 6, with participating pharmacies able to vaccinate those aged 10 and over, and GPs six months and over.
The state government is already operating pop-up clinics where anyone aged six months and over can receive the jab for free.
Mr Rockliff said Tasmania’s flu rate was below that of other states, but it had more than doubled in the past week.
In the week ending May 29, the health department was notified of 134 flu cases, higher than at the same time in 2019.
Mr Rockliff said the health department recommended “urgently lifting” flu vaccination rates, despite almost 200,000 Tasmanians already receiving the jab.
More than 30 per cent of people aged over 65 and 83 per cent of children under five are yet to be vaccinated.
The state government is in discussion with the Royal Flying Doctor Service to deliver vaccines to rural and remote communities.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) said the free four-week vaccination program was an essential step to curbing a looming deadly flu season.
“I commend the government on following the lead of other states … as it is the right thing to do to protect our community and keep our fragile health system functioning,” AMA Tasmania president Dr John Saul said.
“Our health system is already under immense pressure. We do not want to see our hospitals overwhelmed with flu cases or, worse still, preventable deaths.”