Parents urged to get children aged six months and over vaccinated against flu this winter 

Parents urged to get children aged six months and over vaccinated against flu this winter 

20 June 2023 

Parents are urged to book children aged six months and over in for their influenza vaccine, with more than 800 flu presentations to Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network (SCHN) until the end of May 2023. 

Between 1 January and 31 May this year, more than 300 children have presented to Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, and more than 500 children to The Children’s Hospital at Westmead with influenza. 

Of these presentations, 38 per cent were admitted for care. Dr Phil Britton, Infectious Diseases Paediatrician at SCHN, said everyone six months and older is recommended to get a flu vaccine, but it is particularly important for high-risk groups such as children under five years of age, as the virus is extremely contagious and potentially life threatening. 

“It is important to stay up to date with vaccinations. Influenza vaccines are readily available through doctors, pharmacists (for those aged five years and above), and Aboriginal Medical Services. Children aged six months to five years, those with serious health conditions, and Aboriginal people aged six months and above, and everyone aged 65 years and over, are eligible for a free flu shot,” Dr Britton said. 

“Influenza can cause serious illness in children. While most cases are typically mild, some children experience complications such as severe chest infections, altered consciousness, seizures and heart inflammation. 

“Babies and immunocompromised children are particularly vulnerable to respiratory illnesses like flu, so now is the time to get the jab. If your baby is under six months of age and therefore too young to have the flu vaccine, the best way to protect them and reduce the risk of being admitted to hospital is by getting the whole family vaccinated.” 

Dr Nusrat Homaira, Respiratory Scientist at SCHN, said during winter, the trifecta of influenza, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can be easily spread throughout the community, causing the number of serious cases of respiratory illnesses in children to rise. 

“A mild illness for an adult might be hospitalisation for a young child. Little things can make a big difference to help reduce the risk to themselves and others. These include practicing good hygiene by washing or sanitising hands often, staying home if unwell, covering nose and mouth when coughing, and wearing a mask in crowded, indoor places. 

This is especially important for conditions like RSV where there is no vaccine,” Dr Homaira said. If parents worried and unsure what to do when their child is sick, they should contact their GP or use HealthDirect’s 24- hour hotline, 1800 022 222, for practical health advice. 

In an emergency, call Triple Zero (000). More information on influenza and other respiratory viruses in children, including multilingual resources, can be found on the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network website.

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Last updated Wednesday 25th October 2023