A run on flu shots in Tamworth has left local pharmacies running dry, as a record number of Tamworth residents ask for protection amid the COVID-19 threat.
Last year was the worst flu season on record for Tamworth, and around the country, and more Australians than ever have asked for an influenza vaccination. Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has urged the nation to get protected. But despite a record 16.5 million vaccines prepared for the season, stocks are running low.
In Tamworth, every pharmacy contacted by the Leader still had stock, but many report they are running low in the face of unprecedented demand.
Blooms the Chemist reports its waiting list is longer than ever. Manager Shirley Ellison said it's "a bit crazy at the moment" at the Tamworth pharmacy, partly because they hold all-day clinics that inoculate potentially hundreds of people in one go. But they've also seen far more interest in getting jabbed.
"We've had people come in that have never had it before," she said.
East Tamworth Pharmacy said it had "limited" stock, reporting a massive increase in demand during the COVID-19 crisis. Retail manager Casey Hawkins said they also had ordered more supplies as well.
Gunnedah's Karen Carter pharmacists, which also report a "great uptake" in vaccinations, still have supply. Pharmacist Karen Carter encouraged residents to get protected.
"We don't want to have the flu and COVID-19, so vaccination is a great option ... The flu can happen any time of the year so it's a good idea to vaccinate at any stage," she said.
The Gunnedah pharmacy is getting more jabs next week and another order at the end of the month. Ironically, 2020 could be the best flu season in living memory.
In NSW, influenza levels are down 98.3 per cent on last year, due to social distancing measures and better hand hygiene, according to a Hunter New England Health (HNEH) spokesperson.
"NSW Health has already distributed a record 2.71 million federally supplied doses of flu vaccine across the state since 30 March, which is a million more doses than distributed in the same period last year and is enough vaccine for over a third of the population," a HNEH spokesperson said.
The Pharmacy Guild reports an "exponential" increase in demand. The vaccinations are manufactured to order, based on decisions made last October, a spokesperson said.
There is still plenty of time for people to get vaccinated against flu this season, but residents should call your GP ahead, a HNEH spokesperson said.