Jim McGinty

Jim McGinty

Attorney General; Minister for Health; Electoral Affairs

    $4million campaign offers free flu shots for children and the elderly

    5/04/2008 12:00 AM

    All Western Australian children aged between six months and five years will be offered a free vaccination against potentially deadly influenza this year, as part of the State’s biggest ever campaign to fight flu.


    Health Minister Jim McGinty said the move was part of a $4million strategy to prevent the spread of influenza after a severe season led to three child deaths in WA last year.


    “Influenza strains are becoming stronger and more unpredictable and the very young, the elderly and those with chronic disease are all vulnerable to severe illness from the virus,” Mr McGinty said.


    “The flu season is some months away but we need to be prepared for a possible outbreak.  Vaccination provides safe and effective protection.


    “Two drug companies, Sanofi and CSL, have offered $800,000 worth of free flu vaccines for Perth children.  This will form the basis of an Australian-first study to explore whether the vaccine should be made available for free to all children across the country.


    “Following lobbying from Country Labor MPs, the State Government has committed an additional $400,000 to ensure that every child living in the country is also offered a free vaccine.


    “WA is the first State in Australia to take these steps to protect children and I urge everyone, including those who are not eligible for a free vaccine, to visit their doctor now to discuss being immunised.”


    Perth was selected for the study because it was judged as having the best influenza surveillance program in Australia.  Approximately 350,000 free flu vaccines, worth more $3.25million will be available for children and eligible adults over the coming months.


    Each year the State and Federal Governments provide free influenza vaccines to people aged 65 years or over; indigenous Australians aged 50 years or over; and indigenous Australians aged between 15 and 49 years who have a high-risk medical condition.


    Free vaccinations for eligible adults living throughout the State and children in the Perth area are available through GPs or local immunisation clinics. Vaccine for children in regional areas will be available within a fortnight. Parents should check availability with their provider.


    About 10 per cent of the State’s population catch influenza each year and more than 200 people die from complications such as pneumonia and heart failure.  In 2007 there were four times the number of confirmed cases as were reported the previous year.


    A $700,000 Department of Health advertising campaign to warn people of the dangers and advise them on how to avoid getting and transmitting the virus will begin tomorrow.  Children not previously vaccinated against influenza will need two doses, one month apart.


    More information is available at http://www.public.health.wa.gov.au


    Minister's office - 9422 3000