Victoria’s state Opposition has committed to free flu vaccines for all kids, should it win the next state election
Shadow Minister for Health Mary Wooldridge announced that a Liberal Nationals Government would provide up to $7 million over four years for free voluntary flu vaccinations for all Victorian children between the ages of six months and five years old.
Ms Wooldridge points out that many parents do not have their children vaccinated against the flu due to cost barriers or concerns about vaccine safety.
Funding the vaccine for young children would provide a strong incentive and clear message that the safety and wellbeing of their children is paramount and flu vaccinations are recommended, the Liberal Nationals say.
“This commitment should give parents the confidence that the flu vaccination is a safe and an effective way to protect their children,” Ms Wooldridge says.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners welcomed the move.
RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel says a government-subsidised flu vaccination program is long overdue.
“Shadow Health Minister Mary Wooldridge’s announcement is a step in the right direction, but far more needs to be done to protect Australians from influenza,” Dr Seidel says.
“Influenza vaccines should be available to all Australians, not only children.”
Dr Seidel said he hopes the Federal Government will carefully consider implementing a vaccination program that provides all Australians with a free flu vaccination.
“We want to see action, not just announcements,” Dr Seidel says.
“Ideally, every Australian will have access to a free influenza vaccination in the lead up to next year’s flu season.
“I would like to see the Victorian Government and other state governments better the Victorian Liberals’ commitment to free vaccinations.”
Dr Seidel says a government-subsidised flu vaccination program would cost far less than the economic losses from the 3000 deaths a year, mounting hospital and health bills, and lost work productivity.
“We are seeing the same story over and over again – on average, 3000 deaths a year, 18,000 hospital admissions and 350,000 Australians affected by the flu,” Dr Seidel says.
“It is in the best interest of the people of Australia that our government provide everyone with free flu vaccinations.”
Dr Seidel said free flu vaccinations would help ensure immunity for the majority of the community.
“Creating herd immunity will impede the spread of flu across the community,” Dr Seidel says.
“It will protect those who are vulnerable to influenza, like children and the elderly.”
Last week Dr Paul Van Buynder, Chairman of the Australian Immunisation Coalition, told the AJP that “if we’d had a number of our children vaccinated against influenza, we wouldn’t have seen the sort of numbers we had this year”.
“We think it’s really important that all children be offered flu vaccine.”
Mainstream media continue to report on the fallout from this year’s severe flu season, including on the case of ACT medical receptionist Jennifer Thew, who died from acute respiratory distress syndrome over the weekend following a flu infection.