THE window for free flu shots in NSW has opened wider as NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard flagged concerns that inoculation rates were too low in the "perfect storm" season.
The change leaves free flu shots on the table for those who are eligible until July 17.
It comes as Hunter New England grapples with a "perfect storm" of treating severe COVID and influenza patients at the same time. Public health physician Dr David Durrheim said influenza particularly impacts "little ones" under five years of age, and the elderly.
"It's really worrying that just over 18 per cent of children and teenagers have had a flu jab and for kids aged six months to five years, the figure is 25 per cent," Mr Hazzard said.
"These numbers are particularly concerning given in the last month, four times as many kids have been admitted to Sydney's two children's hospitals with flu than with COVID.
"It only takes a few minutes to get a flu jab but that time could mean the difference between you or one of your loved ones ending up in ICU so please, book in today."
Adult uptake is less than 40 per cent in the 50 to 65 age range, rising to just 64 per cent of those aged 65 or older.
NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said the jab could prevent unnecessary winter hospitalisations.
"More than 1000 people presented to our EDs with flu-like illness last week and almost 165 were so unwell they were admitted, including very young children," Dr Chant said.
"Please take advantage of the offer of the free vaccination to protect yourself against the flu this winter. There is plenty of supply and appointments available at GPs and pharmacies."
Northern NSW, Sydney's west and southwest and the state's central west have been flagged as areas of particular concern.