Australian Greens health spokesperson Dr Richard Di Natale has written to the federal health minister calling for the influenza vaccine to be made available free of charge to all Australians as part of the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Ensuring everyone can access the flu vaccine for free is a clear step that will provide multiple benefits to the public and to our health system,” Dr Di Natale said today.
“This is a time-critical decision. We have a narrow window of time in which to act, before flu season hits and while there is time to get the required vaccines into the country.
“People with the flu will be at significantly increased risk if they contract COVID-19, regardless of how healthy they may be, so first and foremost, this vaccine will protect them from possibly life-threatening illness.
"This is even more important for people who we know are more vulnerable to this coronavirus.
“Urgently ensuring that all Australians can get the flu vaccine for free will also reduce the number of people who develop upper respiratory tract symptoms from influenza. This will ease stress and anxiety among people who are concerned about potentially having the COVID-19 virus, and will lessen the burden on testing processes.
“The new restrictions on access to aged care facilities will require people to have received the flu vaccination for entry, so ensuring this vaccine is free for everyone is important.
“At a time when many people are facing unemployment, reduced hours and uncertain months ahead, Australians should not be forced to choose between paying for the flu vaccine and going without other essentials.
“It is critical that the government take these necessary steps as a matter of urgency.
“This is a practical and straightforward measure that will save lives, keep more people healthy and lessen the burden on our health system,” said Dr Di Natale.