Flu vaccination rates slump to an alarming low

June 1st, 2017 by: admin
  • More than 1,500 Western Australians hospitalised due to flu last year
  • Uptake of influenza vaccine declining, despite risk remaining high
  • Free influenza vaccine available to a number of eligible, at-risk groups

New data from the Department of Health has shown the uptake of the flu vaccine has declined, despite the risk of influenza remaining high.

In 2016, there were 7,937 confirmed influenza cases in Western Australia, of which 20 per cent (1,580) required hospitalisation.

The 65 years and over demographic, which represents 12.3 per cent of the Western Australian population, accounted for 22.5 per cent of total flu cases (1,788).  Of this cohort, 23 per cent (722) required hospitalisation for their symptoms.  Yet despite these high numbers, the uptake of the flu vaccine in this demographic was 56 per cent in 2016; this is down from 64.2 per cent in 2014.

These new findings follow a study led by Princess Margaret Hospital infectious diseases specialist Christopher Blyth which found the vaccination rate for the under-five age group had fallen from about 42 per cent in 2008-09 to just seven per cent in 2010-14.

The influenza vaccine is available free through immunisation providers including GP clinics, community health clinics or Aboriginal medical services for eligible, at-risk groups including young children, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, pregnant women, people aged 65 years and above, and those with chronic medical conditions.

People not eligible for the free vaccine can get it through their GP or at a participating chemist for a small cost.

Anyone with concerns about whether they or members of their family should be vaccinated should discuss this with their GP.

Comments attributed to Health Minister Roger Cook:

“Influenza is a highly contagious disease and in severe cases can result in complications such as bronchitis, pneumonia and acute respiratory disease and can lead to hospitalisation or even death.

“The decline in the number of people getting the influenza vaccine is a startling trend that is unnecessarily jeopardising peoples’ health.

“It is important people get vaccinated against the flu every year, as last year’s vaccine may not protect them from this year’s viruses and protection may wane after three to four months.

“Now is the best time to be vaccinated to ensure maximum protection for the peak flu season in August and September.

“Each year our hospital Emergency Departments are put under extra pressure during the peak flu season, due to patients presenting with flu and flu-like symptoms.

“With the onset of colder weather, we will see an increase in the number of flu cases.  People can reduce their risk of contracting the flu by getting the flu vaccine now.”

Minister’s office – 6552 6500

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