On 3 April 2012, the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer issued a reminder to immunisation providers of the influenza vaccines recommended by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) for use with children.
Providers are reminded that Fluvax® is not registered for use in children under 5 years of age in Australia and should not be given in this age group due to the increased risk of febrile convulsions. ATARGI recommends the use of Fluarix® and Vaxigrip® for children between 6 months and 10 years of age eligible for immunisation under the National Immunisation Program (NIP). Children between 6 months and 10 years of age who are not eligible under the NIP may also use Influvac® and Agrippal®. All influenza vaccines may be used in anyone aged 10 years or over.
Free flu vaccinations are in the pipeline for children under the age of 5 after an alarming number of toddlers ended up in hospital last winter.
The Ministry of Health has lodged a request with drug-buying agency Pharmac to extend the eligibility of free influenza vaccines.
Health officials say almost 400 children aged 4 and under were admitted to hospital with influenza last year, and the rate was particularly high for those not yet 1.
The flu season is likely to start in the next three months and vaccination preparations are under way.
Free flu vaccines are currently only available to people aged 65 and over, pregnant women and people with health conditions.