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Government extends free flu shot deadline until 17 July

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Hunter residents will now have until 17 July to receive their free flu shots amid concerns vaccination rates are still not where they should be.

The latest data shows only one in four children aged under five has had an injection.

Figures are even lower for kids aged five to 15.

“It’s really worrying that just over 18% of children and teenagers have had a flu jab and for kids aged six months to five years, the figure is 25%,” NSW Minister for Health Brad Hazzard said.

“These numbers are particularly concerning given in the past month, four times as many kids have been admitted to Sydney’s two children’s hospitals with flu than with COVID.”

Mr Hazzard urged families to use the school holidays to book in for a free flu shot.

“It only takes a few minutes to get a jab but that time could mean the difference between you or one of your loved ones ending up in ICU,” he said.

“So, please, book in today.”

The uptake of the influenza vaccine in adults is equally worrying, with less than 40% of 50-to-65-year-olds and only 64% of those aged over 65 having a flu jab.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant urged locals to come forward for their influenza vaccination to prevent unnecessary hospitalisations.

“More than 1,000 people presented to our EDs with flu-like illness last week and almost 165 were so unwell they were admitted, including very young children,” she explained.

“Take advantage of the offer of the free vaccination to protect yourself against the flu this winter.

“There is plenty of supply and appointments available at GPs and pharmacies.”

Dr Chant also stated the BA.4 and BA.5 variants of Omicron were currently driving COVID infections.

She expects the wave is likely to peak late July or early August.

“Masks are still mandatory on public transport, taxis and rideshare,” Dr Chant said.

“They have not been made mandatory anywhere else, however you may wish to consider wearing one, particularly if you are more vulnerable.

“With both the flu and RSV viruses circulating in high numbers at the moment, stay home if you are sick.

“If you do need to go out, best practice is to mask up and avoid crowds and places with more vulnerable people.

“There are plenty of COVID vaccines available for those who have not had their third dose; and those eligible for a fourth.”

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