Parents urged to vaccinate kids against flu
An influx of admissions to the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network this flu season has prompted renewed calls for parents to vaccinate their children aged six months and older against influenza.
Since April, close to 700 children with influenza-like illnesses have been admitted to hospital wards and intensive care units (ICU) for care at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead (CHW) and Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick (SCH).
The number of admissions for flu is almost four times the number of children admitted for COVID-19.
Dr Matthew O’Meara, NSW Chief Paediatrician and Emergency Physician at SCH, said influenza can be very serious in children.
“While most cases are typically mild, 23 children have needed care in the ICU so far this year, with some experiencing serious complications such as severe chest infections, altered consciousness, seizures and heart inflammation,” Dr O’Meara said.
Two-year-old Aria was one of the children with influenza who needed intensive care, having been admitted to hospital due to low oxygen levels.
Born before the pandemic hit, Aria had had minimal exposure to respiratory viruses for most of her life thanks to lockdown and COVID-19 measures. In June, she caught illnesses at day care and went downhill fast.
“Not only did she have tonsillitis, influenza A, pneumonia but another strain of influenza as well and two other viruses,” her mother, Talia, said.
“Her oxygen just kept dropping and she was on antibiotics and Tamiflu, an antiviral.
“I know kids can die from influenza and I was scared. I thought this is really not good. And when we did finally get discharged, the paediatrician said she gave them a big scare, so to hear the doctors say they were scared solidified my fears.”
Talia is urging parents to vaccinate their children against influenza following their experience.
“I’m pushing everyone to get vaccinated. I wouldn’t want any family to go through what we went through, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.”
With only one in five eligible NSW children having received their flu vaccine so far this year, all parents of children aged six months and older are being encourage to get their family vaccinated as soon as possible.
“Babies and immunocompromised children are particularly vulnerable to respiratory illnesses like flu, so now is the time to get the jab,” Dr O’Meara said.
"If your baby is under six months of age and therefore too young to have the flu vaccine, the best way to protect them is by getting everyone in their family fully vaccinated.
“There is plenty of stock available at pharmacies and GPs and it’s not too late to get vaccinated.”
The community are also encouraged to help curb the spread of viruses by:
- staying home if we’re unwell, taking a COVID-19 test straight away and self-isolating
- wearing a mask indoors or wherever we can’t physically distance
- getting together outdoors or in large, well-ventilated spaces with open doors and windows
- practicing good hygiene by washing or sanitising our hands often
- taking a rapid antigen test to test for COVID-19 before visiting vulnerable loved ones or going to large gatherings and events
- staying up to date with our vaccinations – for both flu and COVID-19.
The influenza vaccine is free for all NSW residents aged six months and older until the end of June at GPs and pharmacies. Vaccination for children under five years is only available at GPs.
For information on flu vaccination, visit www.nsw.gov.au/vaccination
For general advice on caring for kids this winter, visit www.schn.health.nsw.gov.au/winter