Australian state announces free flu shots as part of battle against COVID-19

CANBERRA, May 29 (Xinhua) — Flu shots have been made free for all South Australians in a bid to ease growing pressure on the healthcare system.

Peter Malinauskas, the Premier of South Australia (SA), announced on Sunday that flu shots would be made free until June 30 with immediate effect.

Previously, only pensioners, young children and immunocompromised people were eligible for free flu shots, with everyone else facing out-of-pocket costs.

Malinauskas said the move would relieve pressure on SA hospitals amid a spike in flu and coronavirus infections.

“We must do all we can to ensure that as many South Australians as possible are vaccinated against COVID-19 and flu to ease the strain on our hospitals,” he said.

“The dual challenge of the wide community spread of COVID-19 and influenza at the same time during the winter threatens to put additional strain on a hospital system already facing significant demand,” he said.

Up to May 8, there had been 10,599 confirmed flu cases in Australia, up from less than 1,000 in 2021 amid coronavirus restrictions and border closures.

Chris Moy, vice president of the Australian Medical Association, welcomed the move to make flu shots free.

“This is an important decision, not only to increase access for people who may not have been able to qualify or afford it before, but also as an important signal to all South Australians to make themselves vaccinate against the flu as overwhelmed hospitals face their first real flu season in three years,” he told News Corp Australia.

On Sunday, Australia reported more than 25,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 25 deaths, according to state and territory health department figures.

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