Flu vaccines RUN OUT at pharmacies across Australia amid horror season that’s already claimed 139 lives
- GlaxoSmithKline has now stopped delivering influenza vaccines to pharmacists
- It is focusing on giving supplies to government agencies to immunise children
- Three types of flu are striking Australia at the same time and affecting thousands
- Influenza A (H1N1) strain; the Influenza A H3 strain; and the Influenza B strain
- Meanwhile, bacteria that causes pneumonia is a ‘sleeping dragon,’ doctors say
A pharmaceutical giant has stopped providing flu vaccines to chemists because there isn’t enough supply to deal with a horror season that’s already claimed more than 100 lives.
GlaxoSmithKline’s Fluarix Tetra vaccine will now only be supplied to government agencies across Australia because of unusually strong demand in the lead-up to winter.
A horror flu season in Australia has, so far, claimed 139 lives as federal Department of Health notifications for 2019 surged to 57,761, which is more than four times the level of 2018.
Pharmacists in parts of Sydney have already run out of the flu vaccine.
A GSK spokeswoman told Daily Mail Australia the flu season was worse than anticipated, when it planned the vaccine program almost a year ago.
Scroll down for video
A pharmaceutical giant has stopped supplying flu vaccines to chemists because there isn’t enough supply to deal with a horror season that’s already claimed 100 lives (stock image)
Consequently, GSK was giving its remaining flu vaccines to government agencies so they could prioritise the immunisation of babies and children, aged up to five.
‘GSK has received urgent requests from governments for additional doses, particularly for the vaccination of children under five years of age,’ it said in a statement.
‘Consequently, GSK has taken the decision to divert all of its remaining Fluarix Tetra vaccine doses to these important programs.
‘For clarity, all government program supplies of Fluarix Tetra are secure and have either been delivered, or are planned to be, in the next few weeks.’
GSK’s flu vaccines are manufactured in Germany but it isn’t the only supplier.
Australian company Seqirus makes the Afluria Quad vaccine in Melbourne while French pharmaceutical Sanofi supplies the Flu Quadri and Flu Quadri Junior products.
Associate Professor Sanjaya Senanayake, an infectious diseases specialist at the Australian National University’s Medical School, said the flu season could worsen.
‘This could go two ways: we’ve had so many cases through this part of the year it might actually be a milder winter with regard to flu,’ he told the ABC’s 7.30 program.
‘On the other hand, however, it might continue to escalate. We really don’t know.’
National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance’s head of clinical research Professor Robert Booy said three strains of the flu virus were ‘kicking in all at the same time.’
Consequently, GlaxoSmithKline was giving its remaining flu vaccines to government agencies so they could prioritise the immunisation of babies and children, aged up to five
This may help explain why 60,000 people have been struck down.
Since January, 139 people have died, even before the start of winter, including a three-year-old Victorian toddler and a 15-year-old girl in Adelaide.
Professor Booy urged people to get the flu shot and also said older Australians should have a pneumonia vaccine.
He said the bacteria that causes the disease is a ‘sleeping dragon’ waiting to be awoken.
‘The pneumococcus could be described as a sleeping dragon and a ferocious one at that because once it is woken up and causes pneumonia it can be very severe,’ Professor Booy told The Courier-Mail.
‘Those hospitalised for pneumonia are at real risk of death and especially if over 65.’
The three strains of flu hitting Australia are the Influenza A (H1N1) strain which affects children the worst; the Influenza A H3 strain which particularly hits the elderly; and the Influenza B strain, said Professor Boy.
‘It’s a big surprise to have so much flu, so early in the year. In living memory, we haven’t recalled that happening,’ he told 7News.
Meanwhile, an early start to the cold and flu season has taken a heavy toll on blood donations, with the Red Cross issuing an urgent appeal for help from healthy Aussies.
Professor Robert Booy of the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance said three strains of the virus are ‘kicking in all at the same time’ (stock image)
The Red Cross Blood Service needs 5,900 additional people to give blood over the next fortnight, with up to 1,400 donors cancelling their appointments each day due to illness.
The Red Cross says it urgently needs help, particularly donors with O and A type blood.
‘We haven’t seen cancellations this high since March 2017, and as the number of people suffering cold and flu symptoms increases, it limits the number of regular donors who are able to give,’ blood service spokeswoman Helen Walsh says.
‘We need people who are fully recovered from colds or the flu, and those who have avoided it, to take the place of those who are unable to answer our call.’
People can still donate blood if they’ve had the flu shot.
Donors who have had colds or the flu can give blood again seven days after they have recovered.