Recent removal of the seasonal influenza vaccine from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, has placed thousands low-income earners at risk, warned hunter GPs and pharmacists.

Previous cost of a dose of the vaccine was $5.40 for health care card holders under the age of 65. Now the cost has increased to $20 and $21.

Kelvin Mychael, Cessnock GP said he was especially concerned for carers, physically and intellectually disabled younger people staying in group homes and younger people attending educational institutions and living in boarding facilities.

Dr Michael said, Many of these people are on limited incomes and health care cards and they may well decide to do without this important vaccination.

Geoff Timbs, Warners Bay pharmacist said he usually stocked around 300 vials of the vaccine but there are only 10 this year.

He said, We don't know why the Government had decided not to keep subsidizing it. The Federal Department of Health and Ageing spokesperson said the Government had moved to almost double the number of people eligible for free seasonal flu protection.

The Government announced it will spend $44 million during four years to ensure an additional 2.2 million Australians get access to free seasonal influenza vaccine, he said.

He also warns that the H1N1 swine flu is expected to be the dominant circulating strain of influenza this winter in Australia.

All Australians can receive a free swine flu vaccine from their doctor to provide protection against the virus.