The ACT has joined Victoria, NSW and Queensland in offering free flu vaccines from next month for children aged between six months and five years of age.
About 25,000 children in the territory will be eligible for the free vaccine.
ACT Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris said last year’s flu season was particularly bad, with two out of every 100 children aged less than five years notified to ACT Health with influenza infection.
Minister Fitzharris also took aim at the federal government for not add the vaccination to the National Immunisation Program.
“We do look to the Commonwealth to take leadership in immunisation,” she told the ABC. “They haven’t done it for kids this year.”
“We are focusing on children under five as they are at an increased risk of flu-related complications, including middle-ear infection, pneumonia and seizures,” the minister said.
ACT chief health officer Paul Kelly said more than 50 children were hospitalised in the ACT last year, with 12 ending up fighting the illness in intensive care.
The vaccinations will be available for free from providers, including GPs and ACT Health Early Childhood Immunisation Clinics.
The federal government last month announced that two new influenza vaccines, Fluad and Fluzone High Dose, would be made available free of charge for people aged 65 or over from April this year.
Currently, the government funds around 4.5 million doses of flu vaccine annually for people who are eligible under the National Immunisation Program, which includes pregnant women, Indigenous Australians, older people and those with chronic illnesses.