Parents urged to get children vaccinated against flu

Parents of children aged six months to under five years are being urged to book their child in for a free influenza (flu) vaccine with their GP, as flu cases continue to rise among children.

Since May, eight children have been admitted to intensive care with life-threatening complications from the flu at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, and The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, amid concerns presentations and admissions for influenza-like illness is exceeding presentations to ED for COVID-19.

Head of Infectious Diseases at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Professor Alison Kesson, said some children are suffering serious cardiac, neurological, and muscle-related complications after acquiring influenza.

“Young children and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable and at higher risk of severe illness from influenza, and we are very worried by what we’ve seen so far this winter,” Professor Kesson said.

“Influenza can lead to really severe complications including heart disease, inflammation of the brain, muscle damage, as well as severe bacterial infections such as group A streptococcal and Staphyloccus aureus (golden staph) infection – which is why we’re strongly reminding families to take advantage of the free flu vaccine this winter.

“Influenza vaccines are readily available through GPs for any age group, as well as through pharmacies for everyone aged five years and over, so I strongly encourage families to book in now,” Professor Kesson said.

Vaccination during pregnancy is also the best way to prevent severe influenza in neonates and babies under six months of age, who are too young to be vaccinated themselves. Older children and adolescents are also strongly recommended to get vaccinated against influenza.

Those considered to be at higher risk of severe illness from influenza are eligible for a free flu vaccine and include:

  • Children aged six months to under five years
  • People aged 65 and over
  • Aboriginal people from six months of age
  • Pregnant women
  • Those with serious health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, immune disorders, obesity, severe asthma, kidney, heart, lung or liver disease.

We can all take steps to help protect ourselves and our loved ones from COVID-19 and flu, including:

  • Stay up to date with your recommended flu and COVID-19 vaccinations
  • Stay home if you have cold or flu symptoms
  • Wash or sanitise your hands often
  • Wear a mask in crowded, indoor places
  • Get together outdoors or in large, well-ventilated spaces with open doors and windows
  • Talk with your doctor now if you are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 or influenza to make a plan about what to do if you get sick, including what test to take, and discussing if you are eligible for antiviral medicines
  • Don’t visit people who are at higher risk of severe illness if you have cold or flu symptoms or have tested positive to COVID-19 or influenza
  • Take a rapid antigen test to test for COVID-19 especially before visiting vulnerable loved ones.

More information on Influenza can be found on the NSW Government website.