Apr 23, 2008

Free flu shots for the over 65s – Noeline Brown, the Ambassador for the Ageing

Anthony Albanese MP accompanied the Minister for Ageing, Justine Elliot, to a Fort St Medical centre today as Australia’s first Ambassador for the Ageing, actress Noeline Brown got a free flu shot. Flu shots are provided free by the Rudd Labor Government to all Australians aged over 65.

Older Australians should take steps to protect themselves from potentially life threatening winter illness and have their annual free influenza shots, the Minister for Ageing, Justine Elliot, said today.

“Last year, 2.57 million Australians over the age of 65 received the free flu vaccinations from their GPs, at clinics or in aged care facilities across the country, Mrs Elliot said.

“In the last five years, influenza and pneumonia were responsible for 2.5 per cent of all deaths in Australia – and in 2006 resulted in 2725 deaths – making it the 12th highest cause of death.

“I am urging every eligible older Australian to take advantage of the National Immunisation Program – and not become another statistic,” Mrs Elliot said.

Mr Albanese supported the call reminding the public that vaccinations are needed every year to provide protection against the most recent form of the influenza virus.

“Flu can be very serious for any age group but older people can be more susceptible to influenza complications, like pneumonia.

“Influenza can also complicate existing illnesses such as diabetes, heart conditions and severe asthma – with people needing to be hospitalised when conditions became life-threatening,” Mr Albanese said.

Mrs Elliot said, “This is why the Government not only recommends annual vaccinations for people 65 years of age and over, but provides them free of charge to this age group under the Program.

(The government has provided $26.2 million for the influenza vaccine program).

“Autumn is always the best time of year to be vaccinated, before flu outbreaks become more common during the colder months. This will allow the vaccine time to work before the winter starts,” she said.

Mrs Elliot is also encouraging older Australians to receive their pneumococcal vaccine as provided free under the National Immunisation Program for those over 65. For most people, vaccination is safe.

“I urge everyone over 65 to take these seasonal precautions to ensure that they receive the maximum benefit for a safer and healthier autumn and winter,” she said.

The influenza season usually commences in late-May and continues until September.

Further information is available on the Fight Flu web site developed by the National Institute of Clinical Studies. The address is http://www.fightflu.gov.au