Free flu shots for 2024

Nine-year-old Ace Reisig getting his flu vaccination by TerryWhite Chemmart acting chief pharmacist Krystel Tresillian. Picture: BOXADMIN AUSTRALIA

For a third consecutive year, all Queensland residents over six months will be eligible to book a free flu shot under the state government’s Free Flu Vaccination Program.

The free flu program is designed to increase the number of families who previously did not qualify for free vaccination under the Commonwealth’s National Immunisation Program, with bookings available now from vaccination providers, including GPs and pharmacies.

TerryWhite Chemmart acting chief pharmacist Krystel Tresillian said infection rates for children under 16 were particularly high in 2023 and encouraged everyone, whether they reside in a rural, regional, or metropolitan area, to stay safe and vaccinate.

“For people who live rurally, I think the main thing to remember about influenza is that it is really infectious, contagious, and a serious respiratory disease,” she said.

“So, whether you live in a rural, regional, or metropolitan area, you are likely to come in contact with someone who may have the flu, and then the likelihood of contracting it and having severe effects is high if you remain unvaccinated.

“The vaccination rate for children under 16 in 2023 wasn’t great.

“That cohort also had the highest rates of hospitalisation.

“The main thing we know about children is that they’re very good at spreading the flu when they do contract it, they are not necessarily great at practising good hygiene and touch many surfaces.”

During the 2023 flu season, children made up 72 per cent of those hospitalised with influenza.

Mrs Tresillian encouraged those reluctant to get vaccinated to talk to their GP first and said normal side effects from the vaccine should not deter people.

“It’s a bit of a misconception, people think that the flu vaccination will give them the flu because maybe they have felt ill after getting the vaccine, but those are usually just mild symptoms as a result of the vaccination, perhaps a bit of muscle ache or soreness in that arm,” she said.

“Those symptoms are much less severe than actually having the flu.”

“It’s really common to get the flu and a cold mixed up, but the important thing to remember is the flu is a lot more severe than a cold, it can cause fever and chills, muscle aches and pains, severe headaches and in some cases, it can cause hospitalisation.”

The peak season for influenza varies from year to year, but typically starts in May and lasts until around October, with most cases typically recorded in August.