Thinking about getting your child the flu vaccine? Here’s what you need to know. Did you know that young children catch and spread the flu more than any other age group.

Christopher Blyth, University of Western Australia and Kristine Macartney, University of Sydney

As we head toward winter, health professionals and the public are anxious about another influenza season like 2017, when record numbers of Australians were diagnosed with flu.

The flu is usually a mild illness that leaves us out of action for a few days. But for some, especially the elderly and children, the flu can be much more severe. In fact, influenza kills more kids than the feared meningococcal infection.

Read more:
Here’s why the 2017 flu season was so bad

This year, children aged between six months and four years will be eligible for free flu vaccines in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and Western Australia.

In addition, children aged six months to four years who are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (who are hospitalised from flu at twice the rate of other Australian children) and children of all ages with specific medical conditions are also eligible for the funded vaccine under the National Immunisation Program.

Other children in South Australia and the Northern Territory not covered under national programs can still access the vaccine from their GP at a small cost.

Why should I vaccinate my child?

Young children catch and spread the flu more than any other age group. Thousands of children are hospitalised every year; hospitalisation rates in children are much greater than in older people.

Being hospitalised is just the tip of the flu iceberg: many children will need emergency department or GP visits due to a high fever, cough, pneumonia and convulsions. Rare but severe complications such as encephalitis (life threatening brain inflammation) can also occur, and mostly in healthy children.

Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent flu. Those vaccinated are less likely to catch the virus and develop serious complications compared with those who are unvaccinated. The risk of flu is reduced, on average, by 50-60% in children receiving the vaccine.

Childhood flu vaccination programs have been shown to also protect others in the household and the community by 22-60%. This is called “herd” or “community” immunity and particularly helps protect vulnerable people who may be at risk of becoming seriously ill with the flu.

The influenza virus continually mutates, seeking to evade the immune system. Even if you have had flu infection in the past, antibodies generated from that infection may not recognise and fight off a recently mutated virus.

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Every year, flu experts predict which viruses are going to be circulating and adjust which strains are included in the vaccine. If unexpected or changed strains circulate, the vaccine is less effective than predicted.

Even with moderate effectiveness, if the vaccine is given to enough people, it protects them and helps drive down the spread of the virus in the community.

Is it safe?

Childhood influenza vaccination was temporarily suspended in 2010 after an unexpectedly large number of children had high fevers. Some children also suffered seizures.

These events were due to a single of brand of vaccine, which was withdrawn from use in this age group and is no longer produced. All flu vaccines now used in children have extensive clinical trial data demonstrating their safety.

These events have been a catalyst for major changes in Australia’s approach to monitoring safety once vaccines are registered for use. Vaccine safety and side-effects are now tracked continuously through the AusVaxSafety program.

Read more:
Flu vaccine won’t definitely stop you from getting the flu, but it’s more important than you think

In 2017, only 6% of Australians receiving a flu vaccine reported side effects, with less than 0.5% concerned enough to contact a health professional. The side effects were well within the expected range, mostly mild and did not differ by vaccine brand.

The most common side effects in children are a mild fever, a sore arm and rash.

How do I vaccinate my child?

Flu vaccines are expected to be widely available from mid April or early May. They are available at your GP surgery, community clinic and pharmacy, depending on your age and state or territory program.

Children aged under nine years who have not been vaccinated before require two doses in their first year. In young children previously vaccinated, only one dose is required.

The ConversationChildren less than six months are not recommended to receive the influenza vaccine: the most effective way to protect those too young to be vaccinated is by vaccinating mothers during pregnancy.

Christopher Blyth, Paediatrician, Infectious Diseases Physician and Clinical Microbiologist, University of Western Australia and Kristine Macartney, Professor, Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health, University of Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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  • i have never had a flu vaccine. I had the covid shots…all 3 and im in line to get the 4th as I work with special needs children. I have been exposed to kids that have covid and have not caught it. I was exposed to a child that had Influenza A and I caught that. It knocked me for 6. I was so very sick and needed steriods to help with my breathing. i was very close to going to hospital. Next year i will get the flu shot.


  • Adults should be vaccinated to avoid them passing flu onto others and putting them in danger


  • I haven’t had the flu, I’ve also not been vaccinated. No particular reason, I always plan to get the jab but just don’t get round to it


  • After having the ‘flu very badly a couple of years ago (Influenza A) I have had a vaccination yearly, as have my two teens. This is the first year I’ve had my son (7) vaccinated after it was recommended by his doctor. We got the first one last week with no adverse effects or soreness and he will have his second in 3 weeks.


  • Must book in soon, thanks for the reminder.


  • My son is always a priority for vaccination due to the bronchial asthma he experiences during the flu season. Having had swine flu, I’m also a priority. Booking in soon.


  • Try boosting the families immune system with antioxidant Immune boosting substances like Vitamin A, Vtamin C and Vitamin D.. Gives as good a protection if not better No side effects and NO long term problems In a study in USA brain tissue of Autistic children was found to be loaded with Aluminium salts. These are used amongst other substances in the manufacture of Vaccines. Flu vaccine does not protect from all the strains of influenza usually three to four at most. The theory of vaccination is sound however, it is the foreign substances in the vaccines that are the problem. Geoff.Newall Retired Pharmacist Perth Western Australia


  • I don’t believe that the “extensive clinical trial data” is going to reassure me about it’s safety, after all we are never given this data, and how they do these trials, they certainly don’t compare them with anyone who does not get vaccinated. Viruses mutate all the time and vaccines cannot keep up with it, so you have to keep your immune system healthy, and it is not just a good fresh wholefood diet, it is enough rest, not too much stress and not filling up with packaged foods or junk food among other things.


  • I used to think this was such a good idea (for older kids admittedly) but now I don’ t know. I understand that the vaccine protects against the 4 most common predicted strains. There are hundreds of others. To cut a long story short: bottom line, YOU STILL HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING ELSE TO KEEP WELL: sleep, eat well, vitamin D (yes this is vital), vitamin C (kiwi fruits are amazing), zinc and exercise etc.. The flu jab wont help if you aren’t keeping healthy – not against the main strains or any of the others – because the immune system (no matter how primed it is with vaccines) still requires good old fashioned ‘looking after yourself’ to work…along with eat well,sleeping and exercising, taking a little extra care with hygiene at this time of year will also offer great protection against the main 4 strains and EVERYTHING else! Bonus! win!

    • Well said more important to make sure you are keeping healthy, only unhealthy people get sick.


  • My son gets asthma and has his flu shot every year. He ends up in hospital for days when he just gets a cold. I live in real fear of what the flu would do to him.


  • Only my youngest has had flu vaccins yearly, as she has Down syndrome and always more prone to infections, picking up colds and flu’s which last for many weeks. My other children never had the flu vaccins.


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