Boosting the NSW influenza vaccination rate

About the paper

Current influenza vaccination strategies focus on vaccinating vulnerable people. This strategy is important but more can be done to protect those groups who are most at risk, prevent transmission in the community and lift productivity. Australian governments could do this by also vaccinating more young and healthy people.

Our paper illustrates the potential health and economic benefits of vaccinating enough young and healthy people against the flu to reach ‘herd immunity’ in New South Wales. These potential benefits include avoiding the costs of work hours lost to illness, deaths and healthy life years lost from living with illness as well as hospitalisations and GP consultations. 

One way to boost vaccination rates could be to facilitate vaccination in schools and in more workplaces. While our analysis focuses on the potential benefit of more vaccinations for New South Wales, the opportunities identified have clear national implications.

Key findings

  • Assuming herd immunity is reached, each additional person under 65 that gets vaccinated could deliver at least $210 worth of net benefits to New South Wales.

  • We estimate that New South Wales loses up to eight million work hours, up to 4,000 healthy life years, and more than 7,000 hospitalisations and almost 100,000 GP consultations during the flu season every year. These costs will vary as they depend on the severity of the flu season.

  • New South Wales could boost vaccine uptake among young and healthy populations under 65 to prevent transmission and protect the vulnerable. These cohorts are ideal targets to minimise transmission, especially children, who are more likely to catch and spread the flu when infected.

  • If New South Wales achieves herd immunity by vaccinating more people against the flu, the potential economic benefits could be substantial:

    • Two million additional vaccinations of under-65s could see New South Wales reach herd immunity and deliver total benefits ranging between $500 million and 1.3 billion to the state each year.

    • While actual results could vary based on factors like vaccine uptake among different groups, these results are promising and illustrate the potential benefit of increased vaccinations among healthy populations.

  • Increasing vaccine uptake among under-65s may not be as simple as making the vaccine free. Barriers to vaccination include the inconvenience of organising a jab, apprehension about the necessity of the vaccine, as well as its financial cost. These could be addressed by measures like delivering mass vaccination programs in schools (like in the UK) and more workplaces.

  • Boosting vaccine uptake is challenging and complex. More work needs to be done. This includes national work to strengthen the evidence with local infectious disease modelling, considering national funding arrangements and ways to boost vaccinations among priority cohorts.