It’s time to get ready for flu season, especially for kids

  18 April 2024  NWMPHN   

The 2024 flu season is starting. With vaccine stocks expected very soon, if not already in fridges, now is an excellent time to ensure your practice and your patients are prepared.

Special risk groups are eligible to receive the seasonal influenza vaccine free under the National Immunisation Program (NIP). It is particularly important for those at high risk, such as children under 5.

As trusted health care providers, general practices do very well encouraging older people to protect themselves through vaccination, However, historically, influenza vaccination rates in children under 5 have been lower than other cohorts.

Looking at the data from the 2023 season in Australia:

  • Children had the highest influenza notification rates.
  • 60 per cent of children hospitalised with influenza had no known comorbidities.
  • Children under 5 were admitted directly to ICU at the same rates as people aged 65 and over.

A key factor in increasing vaccination rates in children is talking to parents. Our top tips:

1. Take the opportunity

Consider what strategies would suit your practice to increase influenza rates in children under 5. Is it discussing the benefits of immunisation for children and their grandparents during routine well children checks? Could you try offering influenza vaccination with scheduled immunisations, or offering evening vaccination clinics for working parents? As a practice team you could use our quality improvement template to trial strategies in your clinic.

2. Address hesitancy

The recommendation from a trusted health care professional is the biggest contributor to a decision to vaccinate. Sharing Knowledge About Immunisation is an initiative from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, supported by the Department of Health and Aged Care. It enables effective communication around vaccination and vaccine hesitancy. Its website contains patient resources, and CPD-eligible education modules for health professionals.

3. First year? Two doses.

In the first year they receive a flu vaccination ATAGI recommends children under 9 receive 2 doses, 4 weeks apart, to maximise immune response to the vaccine strains. For children under 5, these are funded under the NIP. If a child has received a flu vaccination in previous years, only one dose is required, even if they did not have 2 initially.

4. Remember to record!

Requirements for recording vaccinations to the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) have changed. In addition to recording the brand name and batch number, you are now required to designate the vaccine type (such as National Immunisation Program, private, antenatal, and state programs).

5. Ensure your practice is equipped and ready

Before flu vaccine stock arrives, ensure your cold chain processes are fit for purpose. In Victoria, cold chain training for a vaccine coordinator and back-up person in each practice is mandatory. Training is recommended for all staff involved in the cold chain. Flu season is a high fridge-access period, and this increases the risk of cold chain breaches in your practice. For more information see the Department of Health’s cold chain management resources.

More information and resources

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Our primary health care improvement team is here to help. Please fill this form, phone (03) 9347 1188 or email and visit our quality improvement hub for more information.