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Influenza hospitalizations in Australian children

  • J. LI-KIM-MOY (a1) (a2) (a3), J. K. YIN (a2) (a3), C. C. BLYTH (a4) (a5) (a6), A. KESSON (a1) (a3), R. BOOY (a1) (a2) (a3), A. C. CHENG (a7) (a8) and K. MACARTNEY (a1) (a2) (a3)...

Australia's National Immunisation Program (NIP) provides free influenza vaccination for children at high risk of severe influenza; a pilot-funded programme for vaccine in all children aged 6 months to <5 years in one of eight states, has seen poor vaccine impact, related to recent vaccine safety concerns. This retrospective review examined influenza hospitalizations in children aged <16 years from three seasons (2011–2013) at two paediatric hospitals on opposite sides of the country. Comparisons of this cohort were made with state-based data on influenza-coded hospitalizations and national immunization register data on population-level immunization coverage. Of 740 hospitalizations, the majority were aged <5 years (476/740, 64%), and a substantial proportion (57%) involved healthy children, not currently funded for influenza vaccine. Intensive care unit admission occurred in 8·5%, and 1·5% of all children developed encephalitis. Use of antiviral therapy was uncommon (20·5%) and decreasing. Of those hospitalized, only 5·0% of at-risk children, who are currently eligible for free vaccine, and 0·7% of healthy children were vaccinated prior to hospitalization. This was consistent with low population-wide estimates of influenza vaccine uptake. It highlights the need to examine alternative strategies, such as universally funded paediatric influenza vaccination, to address disease burden in Australian children.

Corresponding author
*Author for correspondence: Dr J. Li-Kim-Moy, National Centre for Immunisation Research & Surveillance (NCIRS), Kids Research Institute, The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Corner Hawkesbury Road and Hainsworth Street, Westmead, NSW 2145, Australia. (Email:
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Epidemiology & Infection
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