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Tasmanian children the latest to receive free flu shots


Doug Hendrie


9/04/2018 1:48:58 PM

The RACGP has welcomed news that Tasmanian children under the age of five will be able to receive the flu vaccine for free this year.

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All states and territories except South Australia and the Northern Territory now offer free flu shots to children under five.

The Tasmanian Government’s move comes after a record-breaking flu season in 2017. All states and territories except South Australia and the Northern Territory now offer free flu shots to children under five.
 
While the RACGP is supportive of children receiving free flu vaccinations, it has previously called for the vaccine to be free for all Australians.
 
More than one thousand people in Australia died of the flu in 2017. Most were older people, but the virus also claimed the life of an eight-year-old girl.
 
The 2017 flu season was the worst since the flu pandemic of 2009, with more than double the usual number of people admitted to hospital with influenza last year.
 
Controversy flared over the lower than usual efficacy of the flu vaccine used in 2017. A Government report stated part of the reason was that the most common virus circulating, Influenza A (H3N2), underwent change during the year, making the vaccine less effective.
 
Children who have never had a flu vaccine require two doses, a month apart. The 2018 vaccine covers four strains of the virus – two A and two B.
 
People over 65 are already widely eligible for free flu vaccines, as they are particularly susceptible. Stronger flu vaccines have been rolled out for older people to address their weaker immune responses.
 
RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel told newsGP Tasmania’s move was welcome, but a universal program is still needed. 
 
‘We once again call on the Federal Government to roll out free flu shots for all Australians. We cannot afford another flu season like that of 2017,’ he said.
 
‘The lethality of the influenza virus should not be underestimated. We need to take all possible steps to reduce its severity across the country.’
 
Dr Seidel has previously stated that a Government-backed universal flu vaccination program would be a financial boon, given the huge loss of productivity attributable to the virus every year.



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