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Commun Dis Intell Q Rep. 2016 Dec 24;40(4):E482-E495.

Australian vaccine preventable disease epidemiological review series: Influenza 2006 to 2015.

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National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance of Vaccine Preventable Diseases, The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Westmead, New South Wales.



Influenza is a major contributor to the preventable health burden of Australians each year. The National Immunisation Program provides influenza vaccine for those at highest risk of severe disease. This review of influenza epidemiology examines current data on influenza disease burden in Australia, in the context of several comparable countries having programs with much broader eligibility for influenza vaccine in children.


Influenza notifications (2006-2015), hospitalisations, and deaths (2006-2013) were sourced and age-specific rates calculated. Comparisons were made across age groups in the pre-pandemic, pandemic, and post-pandemic periods and by Indigenous and non-Indigenous status.


The 2009 pandemic year and the 2012 non-pandemic season resulted in the highest rates of notification, hospitalisation and death. Influenza notification rates were 4.0 times higher and hospitalisation rates 2.1 times higher during 2011-2013 compared with 2006-2008. Death rates varied widely, but peaks corresponded to high-activity seasons. Influenza hospitalisation rates were highest among those aged <5 and ≥65 years, but influenza-attributable deaths were identified primarily in those aged ≥75 years. Significantly higher notification and hospitalisation rates were seen for all Indigenous people, but higher death rates were largely restricted to the 2009 pandemic year.


Based on notifications, hospitalisations and deaths, burden of disease from influenza is highest at the extremes of life and is significantly higher among Indigenous people of all ages. This pattern of disease burden warrants consideration of widened eligibility for influenza vaccine under the National Immunisation Program to all Indigenous people and all children less than 5 years of age.

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