The Department of Health has confirmed it will work to make the vaccine available before the 2020 flu season.
Victoria has seen 20 times the number of laboratory-confirmed paediatric cases compared with last year
All Australian children aged under five will soon have access to federal government-funded quadrivalent flu vaccine, following a recommendation from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee.
The recommendation to add Sanofi-Aventis’ quadrivalent vaccine, Vaxigrip Tetra, to the National Immunisation Program (NIP) also extends the eligible population to include all children between the ages of six months and five years.
The positive recommendation has been welcomed by the company as a “significant step” towards better protection ahead of next year’s flu season.
“As we have seen this year, the impact of influenza on children under five years cannot be underestimated,” a spokesperson said.
“A future listing on the NIP has the potential to remove any confusion among providers and parents of the importance of influenza vaccination for these vulnerable children.”
Recent surveillance data showed an increase in flu among infants and children this year, with Victoria seeing 20 times the number of laboratory-confirmed paediatric cases compared with last year.
This is despite every jurisdiction except the NT funding flu vaccination programs for under-5s last year, leading to a fivefold increase in coverage, according to expert analysis of Australian Immunisation Register records.
“Of course, now the Minister for Health has to approve that recommendation, but we’ve seen essentially all state and territories get behind this already and we’ve seen an immediate and significant boost in coverage as a result,” she said.
Parental uptake this season is evidence that the message is getting through, Professor Macartney says.
“Parents are really understanding how serious influenza can be – young children have by far and away the highest hospitalisation rates for influenza of any age group.