Free flu shot for kids
Influenza vaccine to be added to national scheme
EVERY child aged from six months to five years old will get a free flu shot from next year.
The influenza vaccine will be added to the National Immunisation Program following a recommendation by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, who will announce the move today, said: “From early next year, for the first time, all Australian children aged six months to five years — not just those with medical risk factors — will be able to receive the seasonal flu vaccine free of charge.”
Until now only high-risk groups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, those with medical conditions, pregnant women and people aged over 65 could receive the vaccine for free.
Mr Hunt said the seasonal influenza vaccine would not be included in the requirements for accessing Child Care Benefits, the Child Care Rebate or Family Tax Benefits under No Jab, No Pay rules.
“The influenza vaccine is seasonal and therefore not available all year round. In addition, children will become eligible to receive the vaccine at different times, which may not align with the other routine childhood immunisation schedule points or the influenza season,” Mr Hunt said.
There have been 245,505 cases of laboratory-confirmed influenza so far this year, five times the rate of last year, and 587 deaths.
Of those, 98,376 flu cases and 16 deaths were in people under the age of 20.
Immunisation Coalition chairman Professor Robert Booy said influenza affected children under five more seriously because they had limited exposure to the virus.
“Children under five are naive to the influenza virus, so they often get a higher viral load, get sicker and they are more likely to transmit,” Prof Booy said.
“They are mini bioterrorists that transmit like crazy to parents, siblings and daycare. Healthy children also account for half of all hospitalisations for influenza.”
The addition of the vaccine coincides with the release of the latest immunisation rates, which have now hit a record high of 94.85 per cent.
Olivia Cheung’s triplets Winston, Ashton and Triton were born eight weeks early two years ago, so the Maroubra mother had them vaccinated against influenza this year.
“I had them first vaccinated in May and again last month because they seem to pick up everything,” Ms Cheung said.
“And the flu affects the younger ones more. I’ve seen other mums having to take their children to hospital this year.”
FIVE hundred children a day are being vaccinated after their parents were sent a warning email from the federal government that their family payments would be cut off unless they got vaccination jabs.
We are closer than we’ve ever been to ‘ herd immunity’, with the number of fully vaccinated fiveyear-olds at its highest level ever at 94.85 per cent.
That is a direct result of the federal government’s “No Jab, No Pay” law, which resulted from The Sunday Telegraph’s six-year campaign to lift vaccination rates.
We demanded the government stop giving federal Family Tax Benefit A payments to parents who fail to vaccinate their kids.
Tony Abbott as prime minister made this happen and his successor Scott Morrison, along with Health Minister Greg Hunt, went further by making the penalty apply in real time.
For the past year, parents who fall behind on the vaccine schedule get an instant reminder from the government, warning they have two months to catch up or they’ll lose the payments from the fortnightly cycle. Previously, the penalty kicked in only at the end of the financial year.
The result has been spectacular — 500 children vaccinated each day, 174,000 in the past financial year alone.
Australia is now tantalisingly within reach of herd immunity — defined by experts as 95 per cent — which would mean diseases like whooping cough and measles are unable to spread within the community and kill vulnerable unvaccinated people like newborns and cancer patients.
Today we have another exciting revelation with Mr Hunt to make the flu vaccine free for children aged five and under in time for next winter, after its approval by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee.
And another development in our ongoing campaign for the meningococcal B vaccine to be made freely available to prevent more babies dying: Mr Hunt has revealed he not only urged the drug’s manufacturer to hurry up in reapplying to the PBAC for approval, but has also urged the PBAC to move as fast as possible in considering the application and vowed to put it straight on the schedule as soon as its approved.
We hope to bring you the good news that meningococcal B is a nightmare of the past very soon.
Olivia Cheung had her triplets, Ashton, Triton and Winston, vaccinated twice against the flu this year. Picture: Sam Ruttyn