Federal Health Minister supports pharmacy as flu vaccination hub with flu shots expected to climb by almost one million this year
The majority (93 per cent) of Australian adults recognise the benefits of flu vaccination in pharmacy, citing access, cost and convenience as the biggest motivators for protecting against seasonal influenza.1
This is according to the Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s 2017 Flu Vaccination Study released today (March 23, 2017).
The Guild’s National President, Mr George Tambassis, Melbourne, said 2017 represents the first flu season that community pharmacists Australia-wide will be permitted to administer flu shots in pharmacy, with awareness and accessibility expected to be key drivers for boosting vaccination rates.
“Our study shows more than seven million Australians aged 18 to 64 years are planning to have a flu shot this year.1 It reported more than six million Australians would be more likely to have a flu shot if it could be administered at a local pharmacy, including two million who previously had no intention to vaccinate against flu.1
“For community pharmacy to encourage an extra two million Australians into having a flu shot this year, is testimony to pharmacy’s recognition as a trusted health centre,” said Mr Tambassis.
“However, given our study identified around three million Australians who have previously vaccinated against flu have no intention to vaccinate this year,1 clearly we must do more to heighten public awareness of the importance of protecting against flu.
“Given pharmacists are among Australia’s most trusted professionals for ethics and honesty,2 and the majority of Australians reside within 1.5 kilometres from a pharmacy,3 it makes sense that pharmacists can now vaccinate, as we represent a convenient and accessible destination for flu vaccination,” Mr Tambassis said.
Federal Minister for Health, The Hon. Greg Hunt MP, is a strong advocate for flu vaccination in pharmacy, saying “the availability of vaccination by trained pharmacists across Australia, particularly in rural areas, greatly assists the community’s access to protection against the flu.
“In conjunction with the Government-funded National Immunisation Program (NIP) for at-risk people, extending the availability of flu vaccination through community pharmacies is a very welcome addition to our fight against this debilitating disease,” Mr Hunt said.
More than 3,000 Australians die from influenza each year,4 and an estimated 18,000 Australians are hospitalised with the infection.5 As of March 2, 2017, national surveillance figures indicated an almost 58 per cent increase in reported influenza cases, compared to the same time last year.6
“Flu is already in circulation, and we’re seeing higher influenza rates than this time last year. That’s why we’re urging all Australians, including the fit and healthy, to protect themselves and their loved ones against the flu this winter, by visiting their local pharmacy for a flu shot today,” said Mr Tambassis.
Pharmacist and Guild NSW Branch President, Mr Rick Samimi, Sydney, said flu is costly for workers, employers, families and the health system at large.
“More than 1.5 million work days are lost each year to the flu,7 and it costs the health system more than $85 million per annum.5
“Flu vaccination does not just protect an individual’s wellbeing, but also lifts the physical, social and economic burden placed on us all,” Mr Samimi said.
“Moreover, flu vaccination promotes herd immunity,8 whereby if enough people are vaccinated against flu, they can protect those unable to be vaccinated, such as the immunocompromised, or very young infants.”
Managing Director and business owner, Paul, 48, Sydney, is a supporter of vaccination and herd immunity, after contracting influenza out of flu season late last year, which saw him hospitalised, bedridden and incapacitated for days.
“In September last year, I got a severe bout of flu. Contracting the flu couldn’t have been further from my mind at the time, given winter was over.
“Like most men, I considered myself invincible, and chose to plough on for a few days. But I was soon forced to down tools when a high fever set in. The severity of my symptoms took me by surprise, and the experience was quite frightening,” said Paul.
“When I was diagnosed with the flu, I was really annoyed, because I consider myself to be health-informed.
“I usually have a flu shot every year, but last year I neglected to do so, and paid the price,” Paul said.
“I now feel it’s my responsibility to ensure those with whom I live and work are protected against flu, and the Australia-wide availability of the flu shot in pharmacy makes protection easy,” Paul said.
The survey also revealed trends among different generations, including their reasons for, and chosen destinations for vaccination. In 2016, flu vaccination was highest among the Baby Boomers (49 per cent), followed by Gen Y (40 per cent), with Gen X reporting the lowest flu vaccination rates (36 per cent).1
Results showed Baby Boomers are more likely to have a flu shot this year (55 per cent), followed closely by Gen Y (47 per cent), with Gen X the least likely (41 per cent) to opt for flu vaccination.1
Almost half (46 per cent) of Gen X were more likely to receive their vaccination at work, compared to full-time Gen Y (29 per cent) and Baby Boomer workers (32 per cent), while more Gen Ys and Baby Boomers were more likely to be vaccinated in pharmacy than Gen Xs1, said Mr Tambassis.
Gen Y is also twice as likely as their generational counterparts to have the flu shot to prevent spreading the infection to others.1
This year, Australians will have across-the-board access to quadrivalent flu vaccines, comprising the four strains of influenza viruses most likely to be circulating in the Southern Hemisphere, as determined by the World Health Organization (WHO), The Australian Influenza Vaccine Committee (AIVC) and the Therapeutic Goods Administration of Australia (TGA). The strains included in the 2017 Southern Hemisphere vaccine are: Influenza A(H1N1); Influenza A(H3N2); Influenza B Brisbane, and Influenza B Phuket.9
Flu can affect anyone, including mums, dads and children, the fit and healthy, office workers and manual workers,10 and especially high-risk groups for whom the vaccine is free – elderly, pregnant women, infants, people with existing medical conditions and Indigenous Australians.11 The Australian Government recommends annual flu vaccination for all Australians aged over six months of age.11
Vaccination is your best defence against flu. Ask your pharmacist about a flu shot today.
The flu is a highly contagious illness.12 The virus is transmitted easily from person-to-person via droplets and small particles produced when infected people cough or sneeze, and through hand contact with contaminated surfaces.12 The flu is characterised by a sudden high fever, cough (usually dry), headache, muscle and joint pain, feeling unwell, and sore throat.13 Each year, the flu causes more than 18,000 hospitalisations in Australia,5 and costs the Australian healthcare system $85 million.5 Research shows healthy working adults vaccinated against influenza have nearly half the number of doctor’s visits and sick days due to upper respiratory illness, compared to those unvaccinated.14
About The Pharmacy Guild of Australia (The Guild)
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia is the nation’s peak industry body representing the 5,587 community pharmacies across Australia. The Guild supports community pharmacy in the delivery of quality health outcomes for all Australians. Pharmacists must complete specialist vaccination training to obtain accreditation to offer flu vaccinations in their pharmacies.
About the 2017 Flu Vaccination Study
The Guild’s 2017 Flu Vaccination Study was performed between January 30 to February 2, 2017. The survey was conducted online among a representative sample of 1,000 respondents aged 18 to 64 years. Respondents were drawn from throughout Australia, in both capital and non-capital city areas. Data was weighted by age, gender and region to reflect the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) population estimates.1
- Pharmacy Guild of Australia 2017 Flu Vaccination Study. Conducted by Galaxy Research; commissioned by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia. February 2017.
- Roy Morgan. Image of Professions Survey 2016. Nurses still easily most highly regarded – followed by Doctors, Pharmacists & Engineers. Available at: http://www.roymorgan.com.au/findings6797-image-of-professions-2016-201605110031 [last accessed March 2017].
- Pharmacy Guild of Australia. MacroPlan Dimasi Analysis, 2016. Review of Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation.
- Australian Government Department of Health. Immunise Australia Program. Influenza (flu). Available at http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/immunise-influenza [last accessed March 2017].
- Economic Report into the Cost of Influenza to the Australian Health System. Report to the Influenza Specialist Group. 2007. Available at http://www.isg.org.au/assets/assets/isg-cost-influenza-report-30-2007.pdf [last accessed March 2017].
- Australian Government Department of Health. National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS). Notifications of a selected disease by month and year, 1991 to present. Available at http://www9.health.gov.au/cda/source/rpt_3_sel.cfm [last accessed March 2017].
- Mills, J. and Yapp, T. An economic evaluation of three CSIRO manufacturing research projects. 1996. Australia CSIRO.
- S Department of Health & Human Services. Vaccines. Community Immunity (“Herd Immunity”). Available at https://www.vaccines.gov/basics/protection/ [last accessed March 2017].
- Australian Government Department of Health. AIVC recommendations for the composition of influenza vaccine for Australia in 2017. Available at https://www.tga.gov.au/aivc-recommendations-composition-influenza-vaccine-australia-2017 [last accessed March 2017].
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Influenza (flu). Seasonal Influenza (Flu). Flu Symptoms & Severity. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/flu/consumer/symptoms.htm [last accessed March 2017].
- Australian Government Department of Health. National Immunisation Handbook. 4.7 Influenza. 4.7.7 Recommendations. Available at http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/Handbook10-home~handbook10part4~handbook10-4-7 [last accessed March 2017].
- World Health Organization (WHO). Influenza fact sheet; November 2016. WHO. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs211/en/ [last accessed March 2017].
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Influenza (flu). Cold versus flu. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/coldflu.htm [last accessed March 2017].
- Nichol et al. The effectiveness of vaccination against influenza in health working adults. NEJM 1995; 33:889-893.