Free Flu Shots For NSW Children Under Five After ‘Horror’ Season
New South Wales children under the age of five will be eligible for free flu vaccines, saving parents about $50 per child, the State Government has announced.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said 400,000 eligible children aged between six months and five years would be able to have the vaccine from April.
“It was a horror season last year,” she said.
“All too frequently we heard about those most vulnerable, including young children, undergoing touch-and-go situations,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“It’s a life-threatening illness and we want to prevent it as much as possible.
“Free flu vaccinations for children between six months and five years of age is a good deal. Please take it up.”
The Government decided to fund the $3.5 million scheme after the state was last year hit with its worst flu season since 2009.
There were more than 12,000 confirmed cases of influenza in children under five, Health Minister Brad Hazzard said.
“We had many children, in fact double the number of children, being admitted to hospitals like Westmead with the flu,” he said.
“Flu, sadly, can kill and it can cause all sorts ongoing problems.
“Last year we had a couple of children pass away and we had other children and families who suffered very badly.”
Changes to Improve Uptake of Flu Shot
NSW Chief Medical Officer Kerry Chant said there had not been a strong uptake of the vaccine in the past.
“We are removing one barrier which is the cost of the vaccine but we’re also putting it in doctors’ fridges so again that removes that additional barrier of patients potentially having to go to a pharmacy and then taking the vaccine back to a general practice,” she said.
“So those two steps we’re hoping will significantly improve uptake.”
NSW Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord said offering the free flu shots to children was a start, but a more comprehensive approach was needed.
A five-point plan including free or subsidised vaccinations for a wider range of people, stepped-up hygiene practices in public places such as shopping centres, sports stadiums and tourist venues, plus a community education campaign about ways to stop spreading germs was required, he said.
The vaccine will cover four strains of influenza virus, two A strains and two B strains.
Children who have never had the flu vaccine would need two doses, one month apart and then a flu shot every year after that.
The vaccine would be available at GPs, Aboriginal medical centres, community centres or local councils currently running immunisation programs.
A similar program is already offered in Western Australia.
A Commonwealth-funded immunisation program already provides free flu vaccinations for Aboriginal children, people aged over 65, pregnant women, and those with chronic illnesses.