Date Published: 7 April 2009
Campaign steps up to prevent child flu
Parents are again being urged to vaccinate young children against influenza after new WA Health research showed that immunisation can reduce flu hospitalisation rates by close to 90%.
Last year WA started the biggest paediatric influenza program ever conducted in Australia and carried out vaccine effectiveness assessments.
Medical Coordinator of the Prevention and Control Program, Communicable Disease Control Directorate, Dr Paul Effler said the assessments indicated that the immunisations were 88% effective in preventing influenza hospitalisations among children aged six months to five years in WA last year.
“In 2008, 64,728 doses of the influenza vaccine were given to children under five in Perth and across country WA,” he said.
“There was a significant decline in the number of confirmed influenza cases among children 0-4 years of age last year - the first year of the WA Paediatric Influenza Immunisation Program.
The results of our analysis showed that vaccination can substantially reduce the risk of children falling ill and being hospitalised with flu.”
Dr Effler said a severe flu season in the northern hemisphere had resulted in multiple influenza-associated child deaths over the last few weeks, in a similar situation to that which occurred in Perth in 2007.
“These tragic deaths are a solemn reminder of the importance of protecting children against influenza,” he said.
"Children under the age of five in Australia have higher hospitalisation rates from influenza illness than adults, even higher than people aged 70 to 80 years old. Getting them vaccinated is the best way to protect children from flu and keep them out of hospital in the coming winter months.”
The vaccine is again being offered free of charge to children around the State following the success of last year’s vaccination program.
Vaccine manufacturers CSL and Sanofi Pasteur have provided the vaccine for the metropolitan area and the State Government is funding the program in rural and regional areas.
Free flu vaccinations for children aged six months to under five years are available from GPs or local immunisation clinics. Children not previously vaccinated against influenza should get two doses, given one month apart.
Flu vaccinations are also available for anyone aged 65 years and older, Indigenous Australians who are 50 and over or who are 15 -49 with a high-risk medical condition.
The Department of Health launched a major health promotion campaign today via television, radio and print media, encouraging parents to protect their children from flu.