Children aged under five would get a free flu jab under a plan being pushed by state health ministers

A FREE flu shot would be added to the childhood immunisation schedule under a plan to be discussed by state and federal health ministers today.

CHILDREN aged under five would receive a free flu vaccine every year under a push by the states to have it included in the national immunisation register.

Victoria’s Health Minister Jill Hennessy, due to attend today’s COAG meeting, will ask Health Minister Greg Hunt to fund a national flu immunisation program for children in the wake of the worst flu season on record.

Queensland has already announced it will provide flu jabs for children next year but states want the jab put on the federally funded national immunisation schedule.

There have been more than 217,000 laboratory confirmed cases of the flu so far this year more than twice as many as the 100,000 cases in 2015 the previous record year.

Under the plan being pushed by the states, children would start receiving the flu vaccine as part of their regular immunisation from age six months.

If the vaccine is included in the national schedule, parents would need to have their children vaccinated against the flu to enrol in childcare and get family tax and childcare benefits.

Flu vaccination could be linked to childcare and family payments. Picture supplied.
Flu vaccination could be linked to childcare and family payments. Picture supplied.

The Immunisation Coalition has been calling for a childhood flu vaccination program claiming children are super spreaders of the flu virus who pass on the virus to vulnerable grandparents.

However, the push by state ministers falls short of the Royal Australian College of General Practices’ calls for all Australians to get the vaccine for free.

The move comes as a new study has found the flu vaccine used in Australia this year was not effective.


Overall effectiveness in preventing the flu was just 33 per cent, an article in the infectious diseases journal “Eurosurveillance” found.

The vaccine was just 10 per cent effective against the strain of A (H3) vaccine circulating in Australia, it was 50 per cent effective against the A (H1) strain of the virus and 57 per cent effective against influenza B.

RACGP president Dr Bastian Seidel wants a free flu vaccine for everybody. Picture: Sam Rosewarne
RACGP president Dr Bastian Seidel wants a free flu vaccine for everybody. Picture: Sam Rosewarne

News Corp reported this week that flu experts are calling on the Federal Government to use more expensive higher strength doses of the flu vaccine or adjuvant vaccines in the elderly.

Mr Hunt has asked the chief medical officer Professor Brendan Murphy to investigate these vaccines.

The states will also put pressure on Mr Hunt to introduce national rule changes to make codeine products prescription only at today’s meeting.

The nation’s medicines watchdog the TGA has ruled medicines such as Panadeine and Nurofen Plus should be made prescription only from February next year and Mr Hunt supports this.

However, he wants the states to introduce the rule changes required.

Victoria’s Health Minister Jill Hennessy is expected to argue the Federal Government should introduce a nationally consistent set of scheduling rules for codeine.

Concern is building that under pressure from the Pharmacy Guild of Australia some states may allow exemptions that could see chemists still sell the medicines over the counter to patients.

Pharmacists stand to lose millions of dollars as a result of the upscheduling.

The states want Health Minister Greg Hunt to introduce national rules on codeine prescriptions.
The states want Health Minister Greg Hunt to introduce national rules on codeine prescriptions.

A coalition of five health groups yesterday called on health ministers not to cave into the Pharmacy Guild pressure.

More than 100 people a year die from codeine addiction.

“We need to see better responses to pain — over the counter codeine is not one of those responses for people experiencing chronic pain. Health Ministers have an opportunity to save lives and reduce the growing rate of codeine dependency and harm in Australia. Painaustralia CEO, Carol Bennett says.