THE "overwhelming demand" for the flu vaccine this year has left many Hunter GP clinics and pharmacies with little - or no - supplies until new stock arrives in June.
Hunter GPs have said that despite more influenza vaccines being delivered in NSW this year, "unprecedented demand" - compounded by an "IT glitch" affecting the State Vaccine Centre warehouse system - had meant there was currently not enough flu shots to go around.
"We have seen lots of people this year that have never had the flu needle coming in trying to get one," Dr Ben Seckold, GP and director of Hamilton Doctors, said.
"We still have some at our surgery, but I know a lot of other surgeries and pharmacies have run out completely, and they are saying there won't be much, if any, new supply until June."
Dr Seckold said there was also a shortage of pneumonia vaccine for those aged 65 and over.
"We are allowed to order 15 per month, so we have a waiting list of about 100 people long for that," he said.
Dr Lee Fong, from the Hunter GP Association and Hunter Primary Care, said they had experienced an "unprecedented" surge in people getting vaccinated this year.
"In a deliberate attempt to avoid adding the pressure of a bad influenza season to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian Government ordered the largest ever supply of seasonal influenza vaccine," he said.
"We've also been getting the word out to try and get your influenza vaccination early this year. And the community has responded.
"The total amount of vaccine delivered in NSW so far this year is almost double that delivered for the whole of 2016 or 2017."
As of Monday, there had been 2.7 million vaccine doses delivered to providers, compared to the 1.7 million doses delivered at the same time last year. Despite that, demand for the vaccine remained high.
The Newcastle Herald understands there were still supplies of the influenza vaccine for children aged six months to five years, but stocks of the regular flu vaccine - as well as senior flu shots - were limited.
"The Hunter GP Association and the Hunter New England Central Coast Primary Health Network are doing what they can to help redistribute existing vaccine stocks between general practices that have some excess stock and those that don't have enough," Dr Fong said.
"But we know this will have a limited effect, because the bottom-line is that we won't have enough to go around until fresh stocks arrive in June."
Dr Seckold added that due to social distancing measures and hand-hygiene, the amount of influenza in the community was significantly lower than usual.
"I think the really reassuring thing is that due to everyone isolating at home, the number of influenza notifications has dropped drastically, so the risk of contracting it at the moment has gone down," Dr Seckhold added.
"So people can be reassured that if they can't get access to the flu needle at the moment, it is OK to wait."