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Child u vaccination
Vaccinating children against influenza should be a priority according to a
visiting UK immunisation expert.
Professor David Salisbury was Director
of Immunisation at the Department
of Health, London, until 2014 and
was responsible for the national
immunisation program. He was
in Australia to address the annual
Australian Influenza Symposium in
Geelong in October and discuss a
recently launched initiative to have all
children vaccinated in the UK.
'Children are more commonly infected
by influenza than older age groups and
are efficient transmitters of the disease
within the family and community,
especially to those most at-risk of
complications, or death, from influenza
(elderly grandparents, and people
with pre-existing conditions),' he told
'Therefore, we felt we had a priority to
ensure that we could prevent the spread
of disease by protecting children with a
vaccination in the first place.
'In the UK there was an appreciation that
a selective vaccination policy based on
risk status was failing to prevent deaths
and influenza cases, especially in those
with risk factors. Vaccinating children
was predicted to protect them and
prevent transmission to individuals in
risk groups,' Professor Salisbury said.
To reduce the high paediatric
burden of influenza in the UK, it was
recommended that the National
Immunisation Programme (NIP) for
influenza be extended to include
healthy children and adolescents aged
2--17 years. By reducing the number of
cases in children directly, it would offer
'population immunity' to others.
The new influenza vaccination policy
was implemented in UK children and
early results have been encouraging.
There has been an impact on reducing
influenza within and outside the
vaccinated age groups.
Professor Salisbury said: 'What we have
done in the UK is roll out a childhood
influenza vaccination for healthy
children. The pilot school program
and the primary care service have
demonstrated that immunisation
programs through schools and GPs are
feasible and have the ability to achieve a
substantial rate of coverage within these
'Interruption of influenza transmission
is achievable and the Australian health
system could adopt such a strategy if it
were recommended. However, it may
take at least two years to implement
such an approach.'
Four flu strains covered in
The National Immunisation Program
(NIP) will include an influenza vaccine
for 2016 covering four flu strains --
up from three in 2015.
Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley
said the new vaccine would include
the Brisbane and Phuket strains of the
influenza virus, which contributed to
the record 90,000 reported flu cases in
Australia in 2015 -- 25,000 higher than
the previous record of 65,000 cases
reported in 2014.
Ms Ley said the strains to be included
in next year's quadrivalent (four strain)
vaccine aligned with World Health
Organization recommendations for the
'The Government currently spends
upwards of $40 million immunising
Australians against the flu, which poses
serious health, social, productivity and
economic threats to our community
every year, Ms Ley said.
'We've seen another high flu season this
year which saw a number of influenza
viruses circulating, including both the
Brisbane and the Phuket influenza
To ensure full coverage of the Australian
population with no gaps, the NIP will
offer two vaccines in 2016 -- one for
people aged three years and over and
one specifically tailored for children
Ms Ley said further information on when
the new flu vaccine would be available
under the NIP would be announced closer
to the start of next year's flu season.
The 2016 quadrivalent vaccine will cover
two A strains of influenza (California and
Hong Kong) and two B strains of
influenza (Brisbane and Phuket).
Influenza B viruses are estimated to have
accounted for about 62 per cent of flu
cases in Australia in 2015.
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