Most older Australians still having their free annual flu shot

A report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) indicates that 77% of Australians aged 65 years and older received an influenza vaccination in 2003, the rate of coverage remaining steady from the previous year.

The report, 2003 Influenza Vaccine Survey: Summary results, presents influenza vaccination coverage rates derived from the responses of almost 8,000 Australians aged 40 years and older.

The influenza vaccination rate for people aged 40-64 years was 22%. Some 45% of Australians aged 40-64 years with risk factors for influenza (such as diabetes and other chronic conditions) were vaccinated. Both these results reflect increases in influenza vaccination rates over the previous year.

Among Australia's 146,200 residents of aged care facilities aged 65 years and older, an estimated 87% were vaccinated against influenza last year.

The report also provides information on the uptake of the Australian Government's program to fund free influenza vaccine for Australians aged 65 years and older. The National Influenza Vaccine Program for Older Australians provides for one influenza vaccine dose to be administered free of charge to each member of this target group - about 2.5 million Australians - for whom participation in the program is voluntary. The program is an Australian Government initiative designed to help reduce the impact of influenza amongst older Australians by improving access to free vaccine.

Report author David Batts from the AIHW said, of the 77% or 1.9 million people aged 65 and over who received the influenza vaccination, 1.8 million or 93% received vaccine through the Australian Government's Influenza Vaccine Program for Older Australians.

'This means that overall, 72% of Australians in the 65-plus target group participated in the program in 2003, a slightly higher rate of participation than the previous year.

'By the end of April, just over 75% of vaccinations for the target group had been completed, with more than 65% of all flu shots given in March and April.

'The high vaccination coverage rate for people over 65 years helps to reduce the burden of more intensive health services and deaths resulting from complications of the disease.

'These results are a timely reminder that all Australians should talk to their GP or immunisation provider now about vaccination for this year's influenza season.'

10 March 2004

Further information: David Batts, AIHW, tel. 02 6289 8515
For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1032