Senior Australians are being urged to take up the free enhanced influenza vaccinations available through the Government-funded National Immunisation Program (NIP) as notification rates for the disease soar, compared with last year.

“This flu season has begun and we know older Australians are especially vulnerable,” said Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Ken Wyatt AM.

“In April, there were more than 13,400 confirmed cases of influenza, compared with the five-year average of 1,935 for the month.

“Of the 54 Australians who have died from influenza so far this year, 42 have been aged 65 and over.”

Senior Australians continue to experience a high burden of disease with 75 per cent of influenza-associated deaths in 2018 occurring in people aged 65 years and older.

“It is critical to be immunised against influenza, as the virus mutates year to year” said Minister Wyatt.

“To protect senior Australians, we are making 3.8 million doses of the enhanced vaccine recommended by medical experts for people over 65 years available which is enough for more than 90 per cent of the 65 and older age group.

“This vaccine is specifically targeted, offering the best protection for those aged over 65 years of age.”

Australians eligible for a free flu shot include those aged 65 years and over, all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 6 months and over, and people aged sixth months or older with certain medical conditions which put them at risk of severe influenza.

Pregnant women are also eligible for free flu vaccination which is safe to receive at any stage of pregnancy, to protect both mother and baby.

So far this year, more than 11.4 million doses of the seasonal influenza vaccines have been released for the Australian 2019 influenza season.

“Getting immunised against influenza is easy, through your doctor or local pharmacist,” Minister Wyatt said.

“Last year a record 11 million Australians got a flu shot and I hope everyone joins in and we reach another record this year.”

Through the National Immunisation Program, the Morrison Government provides vaccines at no cost to eligible Australians including children, adolescents, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, pregnant women, and people over 65 years - including those who are residents of aged care facilities - against 17 vaccine-preventable diseases.

In 2018, our Government invested $430 million in vaccines and activities which boost immunisation through the NIP.

A vaccination program to protect against meningococcal ACWY has been added from April 2019, through a $52 million investment from the Morrison Government.

For more information on influenza vaccination and other immunisation see the Department of Health website at: www.health.gov.au/immunisation