National News

Free flu vaccine for Qld kids under five

The Queensland government is funding flu vaccines for all children under five in an effort to prevent a repeat of last year's horror flu season.

The government-funded vaccine will be distributed late-April and also be available for pregnant women, over-65s, people with chronic disease and all indigenous people over 15.

In 2017 more than 56,000 cases of influenza were confirmed in Queensland, making it one of the state's worst seasons on record.

The state government hopes the program, along with a change to this year's flu vaccine and new detection technology, will help stop the spread of the virus.

Queensland's chief health officer, Dr Jeannette Young, says it's important all children over six months be vaccinated this season and at the right time.

"For most people, the vaccine has its highest degree of coverage for four to five months, and it takes around 10 days to two weeks to develop immunity," she said.

"So given our flu season starts around June and peaks in August, we recommend people get vaccinated towards the end of April through to mid-May."

Dr Young said much of last year's flu problems was due to a less effective vaccine, which did not cover the main strain circulating in the community.

In addition to a change of vaccine this year, Queensland Health has also rolled out 15 new point-of-care testing machines throughout the state's largest hospitals.

The machines will be able to diagnose the flu within hours of the patient providing a sample.

Dr Young said the government will also use social media to inform the public on how they can best protect themselves this season.

"The most important thing is if you're sick with the flu, stay home," she said.

© AAP 2018