Free flu jab boosts rate
Research shows that offering a free flu vax for kids has increased vaccination rates.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, influenza was responsible for a higher disease burden and overall health impact than any other vaccine-preventable disease in Australia.
Historically, Australian influenza notification rates have been highest in children, particularly in those aged less than 2 years.
The highest annual hospitalisation rates for influenza overall have been recorded in children aged less than 6 months (192 per 100,000 per year), followed by children aged 6–23 months (109 per 100,000 per year).
In 2018, after a severe flu season in 2017 with record numbers of children hospitalised, all Australian states and territories, except the Northern Territory began funding influenza vaccination for all children aged 6 to 59 months, with the NT following in 2019.
The National Immunisation Program (NIP) expanded in 2019 to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of all ages (closing the funding gap for those aged 5 to < 15 years), and in 2020, influenza vaccine was added to the NIP for all children aged 6–59 months.
“While a 43.9 per cent uptake in children aged 6–59 months in 2020 in Australia represents a significant improvement from past low vaccination rates, Australia needs strategies to improve and sustain high coverage,” says a team of researchers led by Dr Samantha Carlson.
“These could include personalised vaccination reminders, provision of greater access to vaccination services, and tools to assist healthcare providers to promote influenza vaccine.
“Influenza vaccine uptake in young children in Australia has increased in response to the progressive expansion of funding and is now delivered under the NIP.
“Further gains in uptake should ensure that protection against influenza disease in children is optimised during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and in years to come.”