Vaccine shortage as 139 die from flu
An extra 400,000 doses of the flu shot are on their way to Australia to help meet a growing and unprecedented demand for the vaccine.
More than 12 million vaccines have already been distributed across the country - two-thirds of which are for people who are eligible for a free shot under national or state immunisation programs.
While supply for those programs - targeting the elderly, young children and pregnant - is secure, there has been "unprecedented demand" for flu vaccines through GPs and pharmacists.
So far this year more than 12.1 million flu vaccines have been released into the market including 7.5 million for government vaccination programs and 4.6 million doses for the private market.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said he had been working with vaccine companies to ensure there was sufficient supply in the private market.
Pharmaceutical company Sanofi will bring a further 400,000 vaccines to Australia over the coming weeks, to be made available through GPs and community pharmacies.
"This will take the overall number of flu vaccines available in Australia this year to over 12.5 million - an increase from 11 million in 2018," Mr Hunt said in a statement on Wednesday.
The demand for flu vaccines is due to the country facing one of the worst flu seasons in years.
The death toll for the 2019 flu season currently sits at 139, according to numbers from the Federal Department of Health.
So far in Australia there have been 58,000 reported cases of the flu.
There have been 139 fatal cases recorded across the country.
In South Australia, 35 people have died from the flu, and 15,000 cases have been diagnosed this year, according to SA Health.
The death toll in Queensland last week reached 25, with people in their 20s and 30s among the victims. Of those deaths, 18 were in the at-risk age bracket of above 65.
In Victoria, three children, aged three, six and 11 were among the recorded 26 deaths. In the state so far over 10,000 cases have been reported.
The majority of flu sufferers who were killed by the illness in Victoria were aged-care residents.
Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos last week said the death of three children was unusual, and the upturn in flu cases could be attributed to Australians travelling overseas.
"We are seeing a lot of communicable diseases spread through overseas travel, that's certainly been the case in terms of measles cases and flu cases," Ms Mikakos told reporters.
"We have seen a very significant summer flu season this year as a result of people coming back from the northern hemisphere with the flu and that spreading in the community." Ms Mikakos said.
"(Juvenile flu deaths) do tend to be associated with situations where there might be other illnesses and vulnerabilities involved with those children."
The substantial increase in deaths, so far at three times the average of last year, has led to a discussion about whether the flu vaccine is effective enough.
Hospitals had major increases in the number of reported cases, which is believed to be mostly due to the "low level of effectiveness" of the 2017 vaccine against the most common strain of the virus.