But she warned the number could be far higher with the numbers only taking into account laboratory confirmed cases.
“We know that this year, we’ve had a record flu season,” Ms Mikakos said. “It started early and hit very hard. When it comes to vaccinations, the science is crystal clear. They’re safe, effective and they save lives.”
More than 2.1 million doses of the influenza vaccine have been distributed to healthcare providers across the state.
Up until now, only teenagers aged 16 or over were eligible to get the flu jab at a pharmacy, but Ms Mikakos said this model was reviewed by the government and will now be extended to children aged 10 and upwards.
Children under nine having the shot for the first time will need two doses, one month apart, and will still be required to visit their GP to ensure they are given a follow-up reminder call to get their second flu shot.
“We want to ensure as many people as possible are getting vaccinated,” she said. “We know that Victorian families are busy and they don’t always have time to get to their GP for vaccinations.”
The cost for the vaccination would vary from pharmacy to pharmacy, but Victorians could expect to pay between $10 and $20 for the jab, Ms Mikakos said.
Northcote mother Nickie Williams had planned on getting her three boys, aged between 10 and 16, vaccinated against the flu before the family went on a holiday to the Gold Coast earlier this year.
But she was unable to secure three appointments at their local GP.
“I rang around my local pharmacies and I could find some vaccinations but I couldn’t get into our GP,” she said.
“So they actually haven’t been vaccinated this year because with all the juggling of school, work, after school activities, it’s actually hard to get everything together and get down to the doctor.”
Flu jabs at pharmacies have soared in recent years, from about 43,541 in the 2017-18 financial year to more than 82,500 in 2018-19.
Federal and state-funded free flu vaccines will still be available from GPs for the most at-risk groups, including young children, pregnant women and the elderly.
Last month, Ms Mikakos announced frontline staff in Victoria’s hospitals would also be forced to get the flu jab under sweeping new regulations being rolled out by the government.
Hospital employees – including doctors, nurses and even administrative staff – working in these areas who refuse to get the flu vaccination face the prospect of being moved into other areas where they pose a less significant risk to patients.
While there were already guidelines encouraging hospital staff to get their flu jabs, it had not been mandatory.
Melissa Cunningham is The Age’s health reporter.