Parents urged to ensure their youngsters are vaccinated to protect them from flu this winter

Parents and carers of 2–3-year-olds are being encouraged to book their children in for a free flu vaccination, with only a month left before the school holidays start.

The nasal spray flu vaccine is free on the NHS for children aged 2 or 3 on 31 August 2023, all primary school aged children, secondary school children and children from the age of 6 months with certain long term health conditions. It is quick, painless and has an excellent safety record.

Councillor Adam Dance, Lead Member for Public Health, Equalities and Diversity at Somerset Council said: “Flu can be an extremely unpleasant illness in children, with those under the age of five being more likely to be hospitalised due to flu than any other age group.

“I would encourage all caregivers to give consent for their child/children to have the flu vaccine.  Not only does it provide vital protection to the child, but it also limits the possibility of young ones passing the virus to others who may be far more vulnerable and at risk of further complications”.

Flu can cause fever, extreme tiredness, aching muscles and joints, stuffy nose, dry cough, and sore throat. Complications of flu include painful inflammation inside the ear, and pneumonia that makes breathing difficult.

Each winter thousands of children need to go to hospital for treatment, including intensive care.

Vaccination effectiveness data from last year showed that the vaccines reduced the risk of hospitalisations by two thirds. By getting vaccinated, your child also protects others around them, including babies, grandparents, and people with weak immune systems.

School aged children will receive their flu vaccine through schools or community clinics but parents of 2-3-year-olds and younger children with a long-term health condition need to book their children in for a vaccine at their local GP practice.

The nasal spray vaccine does not cause flu, because the viruses in it have been weakened to prevent this from happening, but the weakened viruses help each child to build up immunity.

Children who can’t have the nasal spray for medical or faith reasons can have an injected flu vaccine instead, also provided free by the NHS.

Shona Turnbull-Kirk said: “It is so important for parents and carers to vaccinate their children against flu. A healthy child means less disruption to everyday life – if your child gets flu, it can be very worrying, and you may even have to take time off work or arrange alternative childcare. Protecting your child will also help to prevent the spread of the virus to any vulnerable family or friends.”

While young children tend to experience milder cases of COVID-19 than flu, infants and young children who have underlying medical conditions are more than seven times more likely to be admitted to paediatric intensive care units.

The COVID-19 autumn booster programme is therefore available for children:

  • aged 5 and over and at high risk due to a health condition
  • aged 5 and over and at high risk because of a weakened immune system
  • aged 5 and over and live with someone who has a weakened immune system
  • aged 16 and over and a carer, either paid or unpaid.