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Parents advised to get flu vaccine for toddlers

19th October 2021 | By Liz Mattock | Posted in

Parents across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland (LLR) are being advised to make sure that toddlers get the flu vaccine this year. The NHS is sending thousands of invitations to parents, ahead of what the health service says could be one of its most challenging winters ever.

Parents of two and three-year-olds are urged to book an appointment with their GP practice or local pharmacy to protect their child this winter and help stop the spread of the virus in the community.

The vaccine is free and is given to young children with a quick and painless spray up the nose. However, fewer than two out of every three (59.6%) toddlers received a flu vaccination in LLR last winter.

The acceleration of the programme comes with the NHS warning that this winter could be its most challenging to date, with a potential 50% increase in flu cases, while hospitals will continue to need to treat COVID patients.

Dr Nikhil Mahatma, GP and Clinical Lead for flu vaccinations at the LLR Clinical Commissioning Groups, said: “If you have a two or three year old child, please make sure they have the flu vaccine, which you can arrange at your GP practice. Not many people got flu last year because of COVID-19 restrictions, so we don’t have as much natural immunity as usual. This year, with most restrictions lifted, for the first time we will have both COVID-19 and flu circulating freely.

“It’s not just about protecting your child, but also about helping to stop flu spreading to your most vulnerable family members and loved ones.  The flu can be fatal and has a serious impact on the health of thousands of people every winter.

“Even if your child had a flu vaccination last year, the type of flu can vary each winter, and the vaccine is tailored accordingly. That is why they need to have this year’s flu vaccine in order to be protected.”

Flu symptoms can appear very quickly and include a high temperature about 38C, an aching body, feeling exhausted, sore throat, runny nose and loss of appetite. Children may also become less active and get ear pain.

Dr Nikhil Mahatma added; “We understand that parents want to know how the vaccine may affect their child, and some children do develop a high temperature after the vaccine, but this is easy to treat at home and you can speak to the person giving the vaccine if you have any concerns, they will be able to advise you.

“I would like to reassure parents that serious allergic reactions are very rare. If they do, it usually happens within minutes and the person giving the vaccination is trained to deal with allergic reactions and treat them immediately.

“The nasal spray vaccine does contain small traces of pork gelatine. If this is not suitable, speak to your child’s nurse or doctor and ask if they can give an injected vaccine instead, which does not contain pork gelatine. We want to make the flu vaccine accessible to every child, so please do ask if there is anything you are concerned about.”

In terms of availability, flu vaccines are released in batches, which means clinics are arranged in line with supplies. Your GP practice will be able to tell you when they are expecting their next batch of vaccines, so that your child can be booked into a clinic.

This year the nasal spray flu vaccine is free on the NHS for:

  • children aged 2 or 3 years on 31 August 2021 (born between 1 September 2017 and 31 August 2019) – vaccine given at GP practice
  • all primary school children (reception to year 6) – vaccine given at school
  • all year 7 to year 11 children in secondary school – vaccine given at school
  • children aged 2 to 17 years with long-term health conditions – vaccine given at school or GP practice

Flu vaccinations for adults have also begun with many thousands of people coming forward. This year, people who are eligible include those aged 50 plus, pregnant women, health and care staff, people who are at risk and households of immunosuppressed people. Eligible adults can get their jab through their GP or by going to a community pharmacist.

Further information on the child flu vaccine is available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/child-flu-vaccine/

Advice for parents can be found at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/vaccination-appointment-tips-for-parents/

 

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