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Flu alert' to save lives and avert serious illness



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T h e P H A R M A C Y G U I L D o f A U S T R A L I A OB,

N A T I O N A L S E C R E T A R I A T

26 April 1995

"FLU ALERT" TO SAVE LIVES AND AVERT SERIOUS ILLNESS

Five thousand community pharmacies across Australia have begun a national campaign targetting four million people at risk of illness or death from influenza during the 1995 winter.

The national "Flu Alert" campaign is being conducted in pharmacies in every local community by members of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and is backed by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

Pharmacists are using their professional standing and "persuasive power" to convince at risk people they should consider vaccination.

The Guild's Executive Pharmacist, Mr Simon Appel, said today pharmacists in local communities throughout the country were using posters, prescription stickers, direct mail and personal contact to inform "at risk" groups of the advantages of vaccination.

"Far too many people don't realise how dangerous influenza can be," Mr Appel said.

"As a result, there is still a significant death rate from influenza virus at a time when vaccine is available, affordable and effective.

"Australia's experience is similar to the U.S., where studies confirm that less than 50 per cent of high-risk individuals receive annual influenza vaccination.

"In other words, two million Australians every year fail to take steps to protect themselves despite the availability of an effective and reliable safeguard which can reduce the suffering of individuals and slash the economic loss to the community from unnecessary deaths and serious illness.

"A repeat of the worst kind of epidemic, such as the one we had 20 years ago, could cost nearly 6000 Australian women and 9,500 men their lives.

Mr Appel said the Pharmacy Guild was working with CSL Ltd to try to ensure that at risk people became aware of the need for vaccination.

He said most people could gain significant protection against influenza by visiting their doctor and paying $16 for a vaccine prescription to be dispensed.

"Pharmacists are attaching special stickers to prescriptions filled for people in a high risk category, stressing the importance of vaccination," he said.

14 T hesiger Court PO Box 36 Deakin W est ACT 2600 T elephone (06) 281 0911 · Facsimile (06) 282 4745

T h e P H A R M A C Y G U I L D o f A U S T R A L I A

N A T I O N A L S E C R E T A R I A T

"The major at risk groups are people over the age of 65, persons suffering from chronic illnesses, those whose immune systems are compromised and residents of chronic care facilities.

"Put simply, the major risk factors for death are age and the presence of a chronic medical condition."

Mr Appel said vaccination against influenza was associated with a 50% reduction in hospitalisations for pneumonia and influenza and a 33% reduction for acute and chronic respiratory conditions.

He said pharmacists were best placed to persuade Australians of the need for vaccination because of their high regard in the community - ranked behind only nurses in surveys to establish professional standings - and their frequent contact with people in high risk groups.

Dr Col Owen, President of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, said doctors strongly supported the Pharmacy Guild's strategy.

"It is absolutely critical that we reach people at risk and help them understand the importance of being vaccinated.

"There have been campaigns to try to alert at risk groups before but it's an area where we just haven't pushed hard enough.

"We cannot sit back and wait for at risk patients to come to us. We have to be pro-active in identifying them and passing on the necessary information.

"General practitioners strongly support this initiative and are happy to work with pharmacists to achieve these objectives."

Queries: Simon Appel Executive Pharmacist (06) 281 0911 or 288 9050 (ah)

14 Thesiger Court PO Box 36 Deakin W est ACT 2600 T elephone (06) 281 0911 · Facsimile (06) 282 4745