Parents of children aged six months to under five years are urged to book their child in for a free flu vaccine with their GP, as this cohort is at risk of suffering serious illness from influenza.
Influenza vaccination is safe and effective, and children aged six months to under five years are eligible for a free vaccine from their GP under the National Immunisation Program (NIP).
Acting Executive Director, Health Protection NSW, Dr Vicky Sheppeard said young children are making up a higher proportion of flu cases than two years ago.
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.
“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. We have plenty of vaccine supply available across NSW, so please book in with your GP now.”
While no influenza vaccines are licenced for use in children less than six months of age, vaccination during pregnancy does provide protection to infants in the early months of life.
“Women can get the flu shot at any time during pregnancy. 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 six months and older is recommended to get a flu jab. Vaccinations are available through GPs for everyone aged six months and over and are also available through pharmacies for everyone aged 10 and over.
Those considered to be at higher risk of severe illness from influenza are eligible for a free flu vaccine and include:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from six months of age
- Children from six months to under five years of age
- People with serious health conditions (including severe asthma, diabetes, cancer, immune disorders, obesity, kidney, heart, lung or liver disease)
- Pregnant women
- People aged 65 and over.
When people book, they should ask their pharmacist or GP which vaccine is right for them.
NSW Health continues to urge everyone to take simple precautions to protect each other:
- Stay at home if you are sick and avoid close contact with other people to protect yourself and the community from flu and COVID-19
- Wear a mask in indoor spaces if you are unable to physically distance
- Gather in well ventilated spaces or open windows and doors
- Sneeze into your elbow instead of your hands
- Wash your hands thoroughly and often.