Qld makes flu jabs free amid rise in cases
Queenslanders will have access to free flu jabs across the state as the government seeks to curb rising cases.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the initiative on Monday as influenza A cases increase after two years of low flu numbers due to COVID-19.
The free jabs will be available from Tuesday until June 30.
"We have a large number of concerns at the moment because our cases are doubling and escalating quite quickly," the premier said on Monday.
"We are going to see escalating numbers in our hospitals, so we need to do a pre-emptive strike now.
"We need to make sure we have this preventative measure in place, and I am encouraging all families in Queensland to please take up this offer of getting a free flu vaccination."
The most at-risk demographic to severe illness from influenza A were people aged 10 to 39, the premier said.
The state's total cases jumped from 1848 to 4282 in the past week, with 151 people in hospital with influenza and 10 in intensive care.
Health Minister Yvette D'Ath said the community hadn't been exposed to influenza A for five years, and hospitalisations were doubling every week and could reach 400-500 within weeks.
"That's just in the next two weeks we think, based on the data for admissions in 2017," Ms D'Ath said.
"That's how quickly it escalated."
She urged Queenslander's to stay home if they were sick with the flu, and wear face masks if they had symptoms.
The free jab initiative is a $40 million preventative flu vaccine program as the state heads into winter.
Ms Palaszczuk said the government had a winter bed strategy but the program would alleviate pressure on hospitals down the track.
"Otherwise if we don't do this now we will see our hospitals are swamped with people with flu cases, and we don't want that, we want we want a healthy population," she said.
In 2017, more than 750 people were admitted to intensive care with influenza. That dropped to about 300 the year before the pandemic.
The health minister said seeing more than 4000 cases in Queensland prior to the regular beginning of flu season in July was very concerning.
"Our best defence is to get as many people vaccinated as possible," she said.
Deputy Chief Health Officer Peter Aitken said the community was under-vaccinated due to a lack of exposure in recent years.
"It's much harder to access flu vaccination, and our rates are much, much lower," he said.