CHILDREN aged six months to five years old will receive free flu shots under a new vaccination program introduced by the Queensland Government following one of the worst flu seasons on record.
Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Cameron Dick said up to 300,000 children across Queensland would be eligible for a free flu vaccination next year.
“Following the spike in flu cases this year, the Palaszczuk Government is investing $1 million so young children can access a potentially lifesaving vaccine for free,” he said.
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“Of all the vaccine preventable diseases, influenza causes the most hospital admissions of children under five years old.
“Children under five have some of the highest rates of influenza and associated complications, and this year has been no different.
Mr Dick said that so far this year 544 children aged under five admitted to public hospitals have tested positive for influenza.
“We also know that children contribute greatly to the spread of the flu in the community, and the risks of serious complications for kids who contract the flu are high.
“That’s why we’ve developed this program, to ensure young children have the best chance of protection against influenza.
Speaking after the Queensland Influenza Summit in Brisbane yesterday, Mr Dick said the State Government was exploring ways to better safeguard communities from serious flu outbreaks.
“Queensland has this year endured its worst flu season in many years,” Mr Dick said.
“More than 52,000 lab-confirmed cases of influenza have been recorded so far this year, and more than 5600 patients admitted to hospital have tested positive to influenza.
“Unfortunately influenza cannot be eradicated so we need to continue finding ways of protecting the community from this debilitating virus.”
The flu summit brought together health experts, including representatives of the World Health Organisation and other leading institutes, to develop strategies for managing future flu seasons.
“A lot of great ideas were discussed at today’s summit, but one of the key take-outs is that vaccination continues to be the best way to prevent the spread of this deadly disease,” he said.
“Countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, the USA and Finland are already providing routine influenza vaccination for children under five, and I’m pleased we are adding Queensland to that list.”
The free vaccine will be made available through general practices and other childhood immunisation providers next year.