26 September 2023

Parents advised to give children flu vaccine

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Parents and carers are being warned that children aged six months to five years are at risk of suffering serious illness from influenza.

Acting Executive Director, Health Protection NSW at NSW Health, Dr Vicky Sheppeard said young children were making up a higher proportion of flu cases than two years ago and urged parents to book their kids in for a free flu vaccine with their GP.

“Almost two in 10 flu notifications (17 per cent) in March were kids aged under five, compared with one in 10 (10 per cent) for the same period in 2019,” Dr Sheppeard said.

“With international borders reopening, increased social mixing and lower exposure to influenza over the past two years, more people of all ages will be at risk of influenza than in the past two years, when COVID-19 safeguard measures offered us greater protection,” she said.

“This year there is particular concern for those young children aged two and under, who have never lived through a flu season or gained any immunity to the virus.”

Dr Sheppeard said influenza vaccination was safe and effective, and children aged six months to under five years were eligible for a free vaccine from their GP under the National Immunisation Program (NIP).

“We have plenty of vaccine supply available across NSW, so please book in with your GP now,” the Acting Executive Direction said.

She said that while no influenza vaccines were licenced for use in children less than six months of age, vaccination during pregnancy did provide protection to infants in the early months of life.

“Women can get the flu shot at any time during pregnancy,” she said.

“It takes at least two weeks to make antibodies after getting a flu vaccine and those antibodies are passed on to the baby, offering a newborn protection against influenza,”

Dr Sheppeard said everyone aged six months and older was recommended to get a flu jab.

Further information on influenza vaccination can be accessed at this PS News link.

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