While many people won't get their flu shot this year, for some groups within the community, a flu shot can, literally, be the difference between life and death. However, Australia now has a flu vaccine shortage ahead of its winter months as more people than ever rush to get their flu shots.
According to SBS, 25-30 percent more people have already gotten their flu shot ahead of the winter months. While 5.1 million vaccines were brought into Australia ahead of the flu season, this will not be enough as a result of a rise in demand.
"According to states and territories, compared to last year, there has been a 25-30 percent increase in demand," Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tony Hobbs said according to SBS.
While demand is at a record high, the Australian government is now trying to source more vaccines ahead of the flu season expected. Dr. Hobbs elaborated further on the matter.
"The forecasting arrived at the 10 percent figure, and it is very important for listeners to know that the Commonwealth is working very hard to source extra doses. There are 93,000 extra doses for the trivalent vaccine for the over 65s and that's arrived already."
In Australia, the flu vaccine is recommended but not subsidized like many vaccines are meaning people can be immunized for free. Instead, the Australian government recommends people get a flu shot but it isn't a mandatory ruling.
For those who are opposed to vaccinations in general, this recommendation goes unheard. However, for those who have conditions that can be exacerbated by contracting the flu virus, the shortage is a reason for concern.
Every year, people die after contracting the flu. According to The Australian, in 2017, "record numbers of Australians were diagnosed with influenza and more than 1,100 flu-related deaths were recorded." This was a result of a fast-mutating and evolving strain of influenza A (H3N2) as well as an early start to the flu season that led to a rapid spread of the disease. However, in 2018, experts are expecting a much milder dose of the flu to strike Australian shores.
While there is a current flu vaccine shortage in Australia, those who will be directly impacted by contracting the flu will still be able to get their flu shot. Those who are considered compromised can still go to their local doctor and get a flu shot as these groups are prioritized ahead of the general public and a stockpile has been retained for this demographic.
However, for those who live with people who could be compromised by contracting the flu and who get a flu shot every year to help protect these people, they will have to wait until the government can source more vaccines. Currently, there is no official word on when the flu vaccine might become available to the general public again.