Kids allowed flu jab amid pandemic preparation
NSW pharmacists will soon be able to administer flu jabs to kids as young as 10 as health authorities prepare for a coronavirus pandemic in the midst of the flu season.
The state government today announced it will lower the age pharmacists can administer the influenza vaccine to children - which currently can only be given to those aged 16 years - in a bid to boost immunity.
While acknowledging the flu vaccine will not combat COVID-19, Health Minister Brad Hazzard said it will "help reduce the severity and spread of the flu, which can lower a person's immunity and make them susceptible to other illnesses".
"Last year was the longest flu season on record and in 2017 more than 650 people in NSW died from flu-related conditions, and now we have COVID-19," he said.
"By allowing pharmacists to administer privately purchased flu vaccines to people aged 10 years and over, families will have more choice when booking in for a flu jab."
Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said this year's flu vaccine was due to be available from mid-April and urged everyone who can be vaccinated to do so.
"Each year in NSW, we have hundreds of flu-related deaths and many of those who die were infected by the people they know and love who weren't vaccinated," she said.
People aged 65 and over, pregnant women, Aboriginal people and those with high-risk medical conditions can be vaccinated for free by GPs under the National Immunisation Program.
PASSENGERS MAY HAVE BEEN EXPOSED TO CORONAVIRUS ON FLIGHT
NSW Health authorities are searching for passengers who were seated near a woman in her 50s who was diagnosed with coronavirus after taking a Qatar Airways flight from Iran to Sydney.
The woman - who is the sixth confirmed case of COVID-19 in NSW - arrived back in Sydney on Qatar Airways Flight QR 908 at 6.50pm on February 23 and developed symptoms the following day.
However, Dr Chant said that "at the moment we don't know the details of where (she) was sitting - she did not retain a boarding card".
NSW Health has reached out to the airline as well as Australian Border Force in a bid to contact people who were sitting in her immediate vicinity.
"We will be asking those close contacts of the case and that's in relation to a couple of rows before and after where the patient was sitting to self-isolate for 14 days and we will be reaching out as soo as we've got contact details," Dr Chant said.
Mr Hazzard said: "Anybody on that flight … should be very aware that there was somebody on that flight who had the coronavirus".
He said any passengers on the flight with flu-like symptoms should contact their doctor or ring ahead to their local emergency department.
There were currently 80 potential cases of COVID-19 being tested in NSW.