A worryingly small 10 per cent of Australians believe that children are part of the groups that should be immunised according to survey results published by the Immunisation Coalition.
Yet children and young adults can and do get influenza severely, as shown in 2017 when children less than 15 years accounted for 27 per cent of all influenza notifications with 32 per cent of all hospitalisations being children less than two years.
Chairman of the Immunisation Coalition Professor Robert Booy said, “A lot of parents seem to underestimate how dangerous influenza can be for kids. We know that children less than 15 years accounted for 27 per cent of all influenza notifications in 2017. The influenza vaccine not only protects this vulnerable group, but it also helps to stop the spread in the community.”
Professor Booy says it’s important for parents to understand that vaccinating infants, children and young adults has a twofold benefit. Not only does it protect children from influenza, which can cause severe complications and even death, but also, as the immune system of the young shows the best response to the influenza vaccine, it dramatically helps to prevent the spread of disease in the community.
However, while vaccinated children can help reduce the spread in the community, unvaccinated children are ‘super spreaders’, which means they readily spread the influenza virus in the community – not only to other kids but also to grandparents and other vulnerable people.
The results of the survey have been published amid a surge in influenza cases across the country, leading to calls from experts at the immunisation coalition for more children across the country to get vaccinated to help stop the spread in the community.
“Kids have a much more effective immune system than adults and respond very well to vaccines. The human immune system is thought to start declining from the age of 14. The good news is that influenza vaccine is free for children under five years of age across Australia. Book an appointment as soon as you can,” said professor Booy.
You can check if you are eligible for a free flu shot here: http://www.immunisationcoalition.org.au/immunisation/whos-at-risk