I’m delighted to be here today at the Northbridge Medical Practice with Dr Brian Morton, with the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy and of course the Member for North Sydney, Trent Zimmerman.
Today we are launching flu shots and this year’s strain of flu vaccine. I urge all Australians to get a flu shot where it’s appropriate.
We’re making 4.5 million flu shots available to save lives and protect lives. 4.5 million flu shots available for free and flu shots will be available for every Australian that seeks them.
Every year we know that up to 170 Australians lose their lives to flu, so it can be a bad day or can be a tragic outcome.
In particular, we want to make sure that those over 65, pregnant mums, those with chronic conditions and Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders who have particular vulnerability are vaccinated.
But this is something for all Australians, to save lives and to protect lives. It’s what we do under the National Immunisation Program and it doesn’t hurt. I’ve got to say Brian has hands of silk.
And so if you can, come get yourself vaccinated. The National Influenza Vaccination Program is launched today and it’s available to Australians everywhere with 4.5 million free shots for those over 65, for those who are particularly vulnerable such as pregnant women.
And again, it will protect both mum and newborns, Indigenous Australians and those with chronic diseases. So I think if, Brendon, if you want to add anything about why this is important?
Yes, I think it’s very important, particularly to protect elderly Australians and those with chronic diseases who have quite a significant risk of serious illness with influenza.
And we are particularly, as the Minister said, encouraging pregnant women, who have a relatively low up take at the moment to take advantage of the free vaccine. Because influenza is a much more serious disease in pregnancy.
Not many women are aware of that. And it also can be quite a significant disease in newborn babies. And the vaccination of the mother is a two in one effect to protect both the mother during pregnancy and the newborn baby, so we’re strongly encouraging that.
What sort of season are we looking at? Can you tell this far in advance about severity?
It’s hard to tell. At this stage we’re in the inter-seasonal picture. We’ve had about 8,000 notified cases this year. That’s pretty much on par.
There’s no suggestion that it’s going to be a particularly abnormal season this year, but you can never be absolutely sure.
Are the numbers of people getting these vaccinations increasing? Is the message getting through, or is there still some reluctance from some people?
I think there’s still a lot more to be gained. I think we’re not capturing all of those people who are eligible for a free vaccine, particularly those with chronic disease and the elderly and the pregnant women and Indigenous Australians.
So I think there is definitely room to push vaccination more. But as the Minister, we’re also encouraging ordinary Australians.
The vaccine is available for them to purchase for relatively cheaply and we’re encouraging them to take up the vaccination too, to protect the community generally.
Minister, can I ask a couple of question? The Medicare rebate freeze, is there any agreement struck or close on that?
We are working very constructively with the AMA and the College of GPs. Both organisations have been tremendous to work with. I won’t pre-empt any discussions, but my goal is very clear, to make Medicare more sustainable.
Our commitment to Medicare is rock-solid and to make the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme more sustainable, with more drugs at lower costs.
And we’ve had tremendous support and tremendous work in our relationship with the AMA and the GPs. So I won’t pre-empt any outcomes, but we’re making very, very good progress.
A temporary thaw in the Budget perhaps?
Well I’ll leave Budget matters to the Budget, but very, very good progress and I want to thank both organisations. They’ve got outstanding leadership in Michael Gannon and Bastian Seidel.
Outside your portfolio, but a discussion point with your colleges, both in the Ministry and on the backbench, accessing Superannuation for a housing deposit, where do you fall on that?
Look, I fall in the category of those that believe it’s best for the cabinet process to discuss these things in cabinet.