Child influenza vaccination rates decline

26 April 2017

New research led by Princess Margaret Hospital infectious diseases specialist Christopher Blyth has found that a sharp decline in child influenza vaccination rates since 2010 is attributable to ongoing parental fears sparked by a spate of adverse events following influenza vaccination that year.

Nurse giving high school student a vaccine

Although the vaccine at the centre of the adverse events of 2010 was no longer offered to children in Western Australia, Dr Blyth said parents continued to fear the safety of the influenza vaccine more than they feared influenza infection itself.

Dr Blyth said influenza vaccination was extremely important for all children but especially for the very young and for children with risk factors for severe disease.

Influenza is a serious illness that had the potential to cause acute respiratory disease, hospitalisation and in some cases even death, particularly among young children and children with underlying medical conditions including chronic respiratory and neurological conditions and cancer.

In WA, hundreds of children are admitted to hospital with influenza each year. At specialist children’s hospitals such as Princess Margaret Hospital, up to 10 per cent of these are admitted to the intensive care unit.

The study highlights how misguided beliefs about the influenza vaccination safety and efficacy are limiting a very important public health measure that has enormous potential to prevent illness and save lives.

Dr Blyth said the results of this project had been used to improve the information given to parents, GPs and other vaccine providers about the safety and efficacy of influenza vaccination.

Western Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Gary Geelhoed, said Dr Blyth’s research was an excellent example of local research that would influence a major area of public health with significant health benefits for the community.