By Meghna Bali
One-third of Queensland parents will not vaccinate their kids
against the flu this winter largely due to misconceptions about
the vaccine, new research has found.
The latest Australian Child Health Poll has revealed
misconceptions about the flu vaccine are influencing whether
parents immunise their children.
Paediatrician and director of the poll, Anthea Rhodes, said
myths about the vaccine were perpetuated by a lack of knowledge
“Nine in 10 parents have told us that they’re not sure
whether the flu vaccine is safe and lots of parents seem to
have the misbelief that flu is not common in kids and it’s
not a serious disease,” Dr Rhodes said.
Anti-vaccination movement increasing confusion
Dr Rhodes said invalid information from sources such as
anti-vaccination campaigns contributed to parent’s reluctance
and confusion on the matter.
“We’d like to see is an increase in that education, an
improvement in parents’ knowledge so we can see an increase in
these vaccination rates from sitting around 20, 30 per cent to
much higher, to make a difference on the health of our kids
through the winter,” she said.
According to the poll, even though the flu is the leading cause
of hospitalisation due to a vaccine-preventable disease in
Australian children under five, a quarter of Queensland parents
think healthy children cannot get seriously ill from it.
“We’re quite surprised to see just how much uncertainty exists
in the community around the flu vaccine,” Dr Rhodes said.
“Around a quarter of Queensland parents were unsure whether you
can catch the flu from the vaccine, when in fact there’s no
live virus in it.”
She said while people may contract a mild fever in 5 per cent
of cases, or a sore arm in 10 per cent, people would not catch
the flu from the vaccine.
Cost a potential barrier
Dr Rhodes also identified cost as a potential barrier to uptake
of the vaccine, with close to one in six parents saying they
could not afford the vaccine, which can cost anywhere between
$6-$20 for children and adults.
“Universally free, funded flu vaccines for children could have
the potential to increase uptake rate among families and kids,
it’s something we need to keep thinking about on our political
agenda,” she said.
Currently the vaccine is free under the National Immunisation
Program for vulnerable individuals including Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander people aged between six months and five
years, and 15 years and over, people over six months with
certain medical conditions, people over 65 and pregnant women.