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Published: 03 December 2014 | Categories: Community
England’s chief medical officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, has warned that too few toddlers are having the seasonal flu vaccine and health chiefs at NHS Nottingham North and East Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) are urging all parents of eligible children to take advantage of the free flu vaccine as soon as possible.
Figures released show that just a quarter of eligible toddlers have had their free flu vaccine in England. The uptake, so far, is down on the same point last year, which was the first time children were routinely immunised against flu.
Public Health England said that young children are “super-spreaders” of the flu as they come into close contact with friends, don’t often wash their hands or cover their mouths when coughing. Health chiefs at NHS Nottingham North and East CCG are particularly concerned toddlers may spread the flu to elderly relatives who then may go on to develop bronchitis and pneumonia and subsequently end up in A&E taking up valuable beds over the winter period.
Last winter was a relatively mild flu season and health agencies have warned of complacency when it comes to getting immunised.
More than two million toddlers have been being targeted in vaccination campaigns, but so far immunisation rate data up to 23 November shows that:
- 28.5% of two-year-olds have been immunised, down from 34.1% this time last year
- 30.5% of three-year-olds have been immunised, slightly down from 30.6% this time last year
- 23.9% of four-year-olds had been immunised
Two and three-year-olds were vaccinated for the first time last winter and the programme has been extended to four-year-olds this year. But Professor Dame Sally Davies, said that parents are citing awareness as part of the problem with half of mums unaware that the vaccine existed or that children needed vaccinating every year.
Last winter in Nottinghamshire around 40% of two year olds had the flu vaccine and around 33% of three year olds. In the autumn/winter of 2014/15 the annual nasal spray flu vaccine is available for children aged two, three and four years old as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme.
Dr Paul Oliver, clinical lead for NHS Nottingham North and East Clinical Commissioning Group said:“ Children can easily spread the flu but they can also be incredibly easily protected from it. The nasal spray involves just a quick squirt and tickle up each nostril. That’s it! It is especially important in the run up to Christmas, as families come together, to minimise the risk of spreading this unpleasant illness to other family members, particularly those who are vulnerable like older grandparents and people with chronic conditions.”
Professor Dame Sally Davies said: “Flu can be really nasty for toddlers, leading to time off nursery which has a big impact on mums and dads and sometimes even a stay in hospital. They also spread the virus easily and often pass flu to grandparents and other relatives who can become very ill, fast. Giving two, three and four year olds the free nasal spray really is in everyone’s interests if you want to help avoid a miserable winter for all the family.”
On average, every person with flu passes on the infection to two people every two days and that is why the ambition is to gradually extend vaccination to all two to 16-year-olds as children are more likely than most to spread flu. The vaccination programme is aimed at reducing flu in children and in turn cutting cases in at-risk groups.
Parents who wish to find out more about the flu vaccine are encouraged to visit www.nhs.uk/flu2014 or contact their local GP practice.