That time of year again

National flu vaccination programme for children

Winter has arrived and with it comes the yearly vaccination programme against the influenza virus. This year the programme has been extended to children aged two, three and four years plus those in school years one and two. A pilot was carried out in 2013/14 and initial results showed GP and A&E attendances for ‘influenza-like’ and respiratory illnesses were reduced.

Who does flu affect most?

Flu and its related illnesses contribute significantly towards the burden on GP and hospital services as well as the economy. Children contribute the most to this burden, as they are more likely to pass on the infection. The risk of serious flu-related illness is highest in children under six months of age, pregnant women, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. The overall effect on reduction of flu cases and associated complications will mean fewer GP visits and hospital admissions as well as less time spent off work to recover or look after sick children and elderly relatives.

How is the vaccine given now?

The vaccine contains live virus particles, much like the MMR and polio vaccines in the national childhood vaccination programme. It is intra-nasal which removes the anxiety of needles for parent and child and can be given to children aged two years and above. For children with weak immune systems or who are younger than two years old, the inactivated injectable vaccine can be given.

What’s in the flu vaccine?

The vaccine contains a stabiliser derived from pork gelatin. This may be of concern for some faith groups, however alternative stabilisers were tested and found to be ineffective. Parents are directed to faith group leaders for advice on this. The vaccine is safe for those with an egg allergy unless the allergy has resulted in a severe reaction requiring hospitalisation or intensive care treatment. If parents and guardians are concerned or have any questions they can see their GP for further information.

Tell everybody

You may have seen the television adverts promoting flu vaccination in children but many are still unaware of it, so spread the word and help reduce the impact of flu on our health and economy.

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