Failing to protect vulnerable against flu

Sarah Wiedersehn
AAP

Australia has been given a fail mark for its effort in vaccinating vulnerable children and adults against the flu.

Only an estimated 27 per cent of at-risk children aged 12 months to five years with underlying medical conditions like asthma and diabetes get vaccinated against the flu every year, an expert said on Tuesday.

"Really that scores a D in terms of how Australia is doing there, and we can clearly do a lot better," said Associate Professor Julie Leask, from the Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery at the University of Sydney.

"For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged six months to five years only 12 per cent of them are receiving influenza vaccination," said Professor Leask.

The figures aren't much better for adults with underlying medical conditions and pregnant women.

Prof Leask, Chair of the Australian Collaboration of Social Science and Immunisation (COSSI), said the last national estimates show about 45 per cent of pregnant women get vaccinated against the flu.

"We really have a long way to go in getting higher vaccination rates for all of the age groups and at-risk groups that are recommended influenza vaccination under the National Immunisation Program, and also healthcare workers who are recommended vaccination," she said.

The main reasons why people don't vaccinate include a lack of awareness and the "myth" that the flu is a mild disease.

"People are often just not aware that they are recommended to have the flu vaccine and it it is free for them. Which is why healthcare provider recommendation is so important in simply raising awareness," Prof Leask said.

She also warned that influenza is not a mild disease.

"There are an estimated 3500 people who die from influenza each year, as estimated by disease modelling."

People Who Must Get Flu Vaccination:

* People aged 65 years and over

* Indigenous people aged 15 and over

* Pregnant women

* Kids and adults with underlying medical conditions