Page 1478 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 1 June 2022

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MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I thank Ms Castley for the question. Just to clarify, I was on radio and somebody texted in saying, “I understand that New South Wales is not requiring any check of residence or identity check in order to get the free flu vaccination. Does this mean people from Canberra can go to Queanbeyan and get their flu shot for free?” I responded: “Well, I imagine if there is no requirement for a residential check then yes, this does.” I was not encouraging Canberrans to do this. I was simply responding in a common-sense way to information that had been provided with a text.

At no time have I encouraged Canberrans to go across the border to get a free flu vaccination. I have had a conversation with the New South Wales health minister. They are obviously considering their position in relation to this matter. I have been very clear about the ACT government’s position on this at this time. I have also been clear that we continue to consider how we can support those who are most vulnerable to the worst outcomes of influenza and those who may face financial barriers to accessing flu vaccination to get a flu shot.

MS CASTLEY: Minister, for the sake of the Assembly understanding, why will you not provide the free flu shot to all Canberrans?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I did go through this in some detail in my ministerial statement this morning. One of the reasons—as Ms Castley alluded to in her first question—is that the uptake of flu vaccination in the ACT is very good in comparison to other parts of Australia, including more than half of those over 65 already having been vaccinated, and the very large increase in uptake that we have seen over the last two weeks. We have seen a 20 per cent increase in uptake in the space of the last two weeks.

We will continue to monitor it, as I have said, with a focus on supporting vaccination for those who are most vulnerable to poor outcomes from influenza. Of course, we will continue to encourage Canberrans to come forward and receive their flu vaccination. We thank those many employers who are providing vaccination programs for their staff.

Free flu vaccinations are already available for priority groups through the commonwealth’s national immunisation program. I note that a consultation fee is applicable in some instances. We are encouraging, obviously, GPs to bulk-bill when people attend for a flu vaccination, particularly for those in the priority groups where the vaccine itself is free. I want to acknowledge that many GPs already do that.

Madam Speaker, the priority groups for a flu vaccination include children aged six months to less than five years, pregnant women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months and over, people aged 65 years and over and people with certain medical conditions.

The ACT government already provides free flu vaccinations to young children through its early childhood immunisation clinics and for pregnant women at antenatal clinics. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can access flu vaccination

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