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Aussies Need Extra Flu Shots In Record Sick Season

A record number of Australians are getting vaccinated against the flu, prompting one company to order an extra 400,000 shots to give to GPs and pharmacies.

An extra 400,000 doses of the shot are on their way to Australia to help meet a growing and unprecedented demand for the vaccine.

More than 12 million vaccines have already been distributed across the country -- two-thirds of which are for people who are eligible for a free shot under national or state immunisation programs.

While supply for those programs -- targeting the elderly, young children and pregnant -- is secure, there has been "unprecedented demand" for flu vaccines through GPs and pharmacists.

A man gets a flu shot in Sydney. Photo: AAP

It comes as Australia battles through what is already a record flu season, before the winter even officially starts. The death toll from flu this year in South Australia climbed to 35 this week, as the total number of cases continues to skyrocket. SA Health said 15,500 flu cases have now been confirmed in 2019, compared with less than 1400 at the same time last year.

The majority of flu deaths in SA have been among older people, including some in nursing homes -- officials said there had been about 70 reported outbreaks in residential care facilities -- but a teenager is also among the victims.

READ MORE: Flu Deaths Reach 35 In 'Unprecedented' Sick Season In South Australia

READ MORE: 18 Aged Care Facilities 'Locked Down' Because Of The Flu

"This is an unprecedented year," SA Health Chief Medical Officer Professor Paddy Phillips told reporters on May 13.

"We have never seen influenza in these numbers at this time of year."

Flu virus. Photo: Getty.

Federal health minister Greg Hunt said he has been working with vaccine companies to ensure there is sufficient supply in the private market.

Pharmaceutical company Sanofi will bring a further 400,000 vaccines to Australia over the coming weeks, to be made available through GPs and community pharmacies.

"This will take the overall number of flu vaccines available in Australia this year to over 12.5 million - an increase from 11 million in 2018," Hunt said in a statement on Wednesday.

READ MORE: The Aussie 'Super Vaccine' That Could Save Millions Of Lives

Hunt warned Australians to get a vaccination this year, even if they had gotten a shot in recent years.

"Vaccination is the most effective way to protect individuals and the broader community from the flu. It’s important to get vaccinated against influenza every year, as the virus changes year to year," he said.

Hunt said last week that "last year a record 11 million Australians got a flu shot and I hope that we reach another record this year."