Pregnant women and young children urged to get flu protection

Pregnant women and young children urged to get flu protection

The NHS has urged parents to get flu protection for their children following a surge in serious cases among under-fives.  

Statistics reveal that hospitalisations caused by flu in young children are nearly 20 times higher than last year. In the past week, 230 under-fives have been hospitalised compared to just 12 at the same time last year. 

Estimates also suggest that hundreds more under-fives have been admitted to hospital with flu over the past six weeks. 

The uptake of vaccines in children aged two to three is also lower than last year. Despite invitations from the NHS, only 35% of children (34.1% of two-year-olds, 35.8% of three-year-olds) have received flu protection. This represents a 9% reduction from last year’s uptake. 

The drive for flu protection

The NHS has now written to 800,000 parents to encourage them to take their children to get flu protection. The vaccine is usually administered via a nasal spray and will be available at GP practices ahead of Christmas. 

A total of four million invites and reminders have been sent since this year’s vaccine programme began. 

“With almost 18 million jobs already administered, our flu vaccination programme continues to make great strides in protecting the public, but it is vital we make sure no group falls behind,” said NHS National Director of Vaccinations and Screening Steve Russell.  

“Young children, whose health can of course be affected by illness, can also pass on flu to other vulnerable family members, so we encourage parents to think about getting their flu vaccination at thousands of available sites ahead of the Christmas period,” he added.  

Any child born between 1 September 2018 and 31 August 2020 and all pregnant women is eligible for free NHS flu vaccination. Under-5s will be given a nasal spray unless not medically appropriate. 

“It is very encouraging to see good flu vaccination uptake already but as we go through winter and we spend more time indoors, respiratory diseases become more prevalent so it is vital we do whatever we can to protect ourselves and others,” said Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS National Medical Director. 

“Flu, when you are pregnant, can cause complications and evidence suggests it could cause your baby to be born prematurely. Young children can also be at risk, especially if they have long-term health conditions, and we have seen an increase in hospitalisations in recent weeks,” he emphasised.  

Increasing vaccine uptake in pregnant women

Pregnant women have lower uptake of flu protection with only 29.6% having had the vaccine this year and 34.4% had the flu vaccine last year. They are also being encouraged to come forward for the vaccine.  

Pregnant women can book an appointment online and, in many areas, there are walk-in sites. The flu vaccine will protect young children from getting seriously ill and potentially being hospitalised. More information can be found on the NHS website. 

“Vaccination is a simple and effective way to protect you, your child and loved ones against serious but avoidable consequences resulting from the flu virus,” concluded senior policy adviser at NCT, Elizabeth Duff. 


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