Call for campaign to boost flu vaccination in children

A leading GP is calling for a campaign to boost childhood flu vaccination rates to prevent hundreds of hospitalisations for serious complications that take place each year.

The chair of the AMA Council of General Practice, Dr Richard Kidd (pictured), spoke out after new figures revealed that just 20% of children with comorbidities, deemed at high risk of influenza complications, are receiving the seasonal vaccine.

This is despite the fact that it is recommended and funded for this group.

Among children for whom the vaccine is recommended, but not funded, the uptake rate is 10%.

A review of more than 400 children with confirmed influenza treated at seven Australian hospitals in 2014 found that one in 10 of the children ended up in intensive care.

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The Influenza Complications Alert Network report showed that 28% of children hospitalised with flu were under one year of age, 16% were Indigenous, and 39% had underlying conditions predisposing them to severe influenza.

Their average length of stay was 3.7 days.

“The study highlights that we really should be thinking about and putting in place recall systems for influenza vaccinations for young children who are at risk,” Dr Kidd told Australian Doctor.

“We need a campaign to raise awareness, because I think GPs are doing well with the over-65s and the adults with chronic disease, but we need to do more for children, obviously.”

Dr Kidd, a GP in Brisbane, said the episodes of febrile reactions with a couple of brands of flu vaccine for the under-fives in 2009 may have also created a bit of a “speed bump” for GPs in vaccinating children.

“We still have to be careful about which influenza vaccine we give to children, particularly under the age of five,” Dr Kidd said.

“But I would hope that is not a major disincentive or discouragement to doing the right thing.”

More information:

Eurosurveillance 2016; online.