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Flu vaccine supply shortfall triggered by unprecedented demand

An unprecedented increase in the number of people wanting flu vaccinations has caused a shortage in supply ahead of this year’s flu season.

Australia’s Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Hobbs on Monday said it was positive that people were taking steps to protect themselves against influenza but the increase in demand had “impacted the availability of supplies”.

GP clinics, hospitals and pharmacies have been ordering more of the trivalent and quadrivalent vaccines after the brutal 2016 flu season triggered soaring rates of flu cases and hospitalisations.

The Australian government has increased supply of the flu vaccine by 10 per cent so far this year, with more than 5.1 million doses of the vaccines available in 2018 through the National Immunisation program (NIP), Dr Hobbs said.

But states and territories are reporting an increase in demand of at least 25 per cent. NSW Health reported a 30 per cent increase in demand.

The Therapeutics Goods Administration (TGA) has released a total of 9.6 million doses of the vaccines through the NIP, state programs and te private market, up from 8.3 million in 2017, Dr Hobbs said.

“The Department of Health is working closely with states and territories to monitor availability of vaccines,” he said.

The department was also working with international suppliers to import more vaccines, he said.

Additional doses of trivalent influenza vaccines and quadrivalent vaccines will soon be available through the National Immunisation Program, the Department of Health advised.

He told ABC News Breakfast that additional supplies of the vaccines for the elderly and the general population would arrive in early June.

“Patients who are yet to be vaccinated against influenza are urged to seek the advice of their GP,” Dr Hobbs said.

The 2017 flu season was one of the most severe on record, with 102,880 laboratory-confirmed cases of flu in NSW, and 48,599 flu notifications in the peak flu season month of August.

Experts say the mismatch between last year’s flu vaccine and the circulating H3N2 influenza strain was responsible in large part for the horror flu season.

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