THE deadline is looming for parents to get their children’s school supplies ready for the New Year, and this time there is an extra item on the ‘to-do’ list.
The State Government is encouraging all parents to vaccinate school-aged children against the potentially fatal swine flu.
Although no new cases of the flu, also known as H1N1, have been reported since the end of the winter flu season, North Coast Area Health Service public health director Paul Corben said early vaccinations would help keep the virus at bay after it had re-emerged in the Northern Hemisphere.
Two North Coast residents and another 191 Australians died after contracting swine flu last winter.
Still, it is one item on the back-to-school check list that mother-of-four and proprietor of Complete UniformSolutions Soraya Barnham does not intend to cross off her family’s list.
“My two eldest go to boarding school and they have been told they have to have one, but I’m not vaccinating my two youngest,” she said.
“Just from my own experience I once got vaccinated and got the flu worse than I’ve ever had it, so I don’t want to put my boys through that.”
She is not alone. Statewide only about 20 per cent of the population have taken up the offer of a free swine flu vaccination based on a telephone poll, but the level of vaccinations on the North Coast is much lower than the State average, Mr Corben said.
Yesterday he urged parents who were thinking about skipping the vaccination to think again.
“This flu can kill some people so we are particularly keen that people take advantage of the free vaccine,” he said, adding that once enough people had the jab it would also protect those who couldn’t be vaccinated for medical reasons.
Mr Corben said while the number of swine flu-related deaths in Australia was much lower than the estimated 13,554 fatalities worldwide, children were particularly susceptible.
Almost 75 per cent of all children aged nine or under who have been hospitalised with swine flu had no underlying illness or conditions that made them more vulnerable to the virus.DEATH TOLL
Two North Coast residents died from complications caused by swine flu last flu season.
53 people died in NSW.
191 Australians died.
13,554 died worldwide.