COLUMN: Vaccinate kids against flu

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As the colder weather starts to bite and temperatures plummet, I’d like to remind parents of young children to make sure their child is protected from flu this winter by getting the free nasal spray vaccination.

Flu vaccination rates are lower in this age category than this time last year and lower than the national target of 40 per cent.

The flu vaccine helps protect your child against flu and serious complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia, and also more vulnerable friends and family.

This year, the flu vaccine is being offered to children aged two and three years, children in reception class and school years one, two, three and four and children with a health condition that puts them at greater risk of flu.

The nasal spray, which is painless and easy to have, has been given to millions of children worldwide and has an excellent safety record since it was introduced in 2013.

Children aged two and three years old can be given the vaccination at their local GP’s, usually by the practice nurse. Children in reception class up to year four will have the vaccination in school.

Flu can be spread more easily by children, especially to vulnerable relatives such as grandparents, those with heart or lung conditions and pregnant family members.

With Christmas on the horizon, grandparents are more at risk of catching the flu virus from their grandchildren if they’ve not been vaccinated.

Evidence suggests that the flu vaccine is the best protection we have against this unpredictable virus. Flu infects many people and each year causes severe illness and death particularly among at-risk groups.

The nasal spray vaccine last year reduced children’s risk of flu by 65 per cent according to Public Health England.

I cannot stress enough how important it is for those who are eligible for the flu vaccine to have it. It is vital that the uptake of the vaccine is maintained and parents understand the importance of why the vaccine should be given to children.