Older Australians heed the flu vaccination call

The results of a vaccination survey released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) show that 79% of Australians aged 65 years and older received an influenza vaccination in 2004, and just over half were vaccinated against pneumococcal disease.

The 2004 Adult Vaccination Survey: Summary Results presents influenza and pneumococcal vaccination coverage rates derived from the responses of almost 7,500 Australians aged 18 years and older.

The survey is part of the regular annual review of the Australian Government's National Influenza Vaccine Program for Older Australians, which provides for one voluntary influenza dose to be administered free of charge to each Australian resident aged 65 and over.

'Of the 2.6 million Australians in the 65-plus target group, and therefore entitled to a free flu shot, 1.9 million or 73% were vaccinated under the program in 2004, up slightly from the previous year's participation rate,' said AIHW report author David Batts.

Those in the target group who were vaccinated, but not under the Program, paid for their vaccine (to a pharmacist or other provider) or received vaccine provided free from their employer or another source.
For residents of aged care facilities aged 65 years and older, an estimated 86% were vaccinated against influenza last year.

By the end of April 2004, 78% of vaccinations for the target group had been completed.

The 2004 Survey included, for the first time, questions on pneumococcal vaccination to establish a coverage baseline for future evaluation of the Australian Government's National Pneumococcal Vaccination Program for Older Australians, which started on 1 January 2005. As with the influenza Program, it provides free vaccine to Australian residents aged 65 and over.

'The survey found that 1.3 million or 51% of Australians in this age group were vaccinated against pneumococcal disease,' Mr Batts said.

'People in the 65-plus age group are at increased risk from both influenza and pneumococcal disease and the release of these survey results provides a timely reminder to this group of their entitlements to these free vaccines, with the high-risk season for these diseases approaching.'

24 March 2005

Further information: Mr David Batts, AIHW, tel: 02 6289 8515; For program-related queries, Ms Jennie McDowell, tel: 02 6289 5397.

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, tel. 02 6244 1032.