After 2017 being the worst flu season in recent years, the Queensland Department of Health is implementing the Childhood Influenza Program this year. Expected to commence in mid-April 2018, the program will provide free influenza vaccines to all Queensland children aged between six months and less than five years through general practices and other childhood immunisation providers.
Children under 5 years of age have some of the highest rates of influenza and associated complications, with this age group having the most hospital admissions due to influenza. The risk is not just for children with medical conditions, but also healthy children.
“Experience from Australia and overseas shows that the majority of influenza-related paediatric hospitalisations and deaths actually occur among children without any underlying medical conditions”, said Dr Stephen Lambert, Senior Medical Officer, Queensland Health.
“We also know that children contribute greatly to the spread of influenza in the community, and serious complications from influenza can be devastating for children and their families.”
“Therefore annual immunisation against influenza is important for all children and continues to be the best way to prevent the spread of influenza.
“Providing vaccine to very young children will greatly enhance their protection against influenza – the most common vaccine-preventable disease whose severity is unfortunately often underestimated even among healthcare professionals,” Dr Lambert said.
Research demonstrates that children are three times more likely to receive an influenza vaccination if a healthcare provider recommends it to their parents or carers. Healthcare professionals are therefore in a unique position to have this discussion with parents and encourage them to vaccinate their children against influenza each season.
The influenza vaccine is safe for children and should be offered annually to everyone older than six months of age.