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Children Flu

Flu vaccination programme 2020 for 2-3 year old.

FLU VACCINATION FOR CHILDREN: WHAT SHOULD PARENTS KNOW?

If you have a child aged 2-3 (by 31st August 2019), the chances are you will soon be receiving an invitation for your child to have a flu vaccine. Naturally, all parents and care givers want to make the right decision for their child.

WHY ARE CHILDREN INCLUDED IN THE FLU VACCINATION PROGRAMME?

We all recognise the common symptoms of flu: fever, chills, aches, runny nose, dry cough and so on. However, not everyone will be aware of the more serious complications of flu. In adults and children alike these include pneumonia, sepsis, Meningitis and encephalitis. Every year a small number of children will die of these complications.

The flu vaccination offers children direct protection from both the unpleasant (but usually short-lived) flu illness itself, and the severe complications. The effectiveness of the vaccine varies each year according to the circulating strains of virus but last year the vaccine was calculated to have prevented around 50% of flu cases. That figure might seem surprisingly low but this is actually considered to be a highly effective public health intervention.

There is a second and equally important reason for the vaccination programme. As all parents have no

doubt learned, young children are extremely efficient at spreading their viruses around. Pre- school and primary school-aged children are an enormous pool for the flu virus to thrive in. Reducing the number of children harbouring the virus helps protect our more vulnerable members of society: the over 65s, people with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, and young babies who are too young to be vaccinated but are even more susceptible to becoming seriously ill with flu.

If you think about it each of those adorable but snotty primary school-aged children is likely to be cuddling their grandparents or a baby sibling, or know someone who is pregnant, possibly their own mum. We want to do all we can to prevent them from spreading the virus to the people they love most.

WHATDOESVACCINATION INVOLVE

Children in reception and above will be offered the Fluenz nasal vaccine at their schools and younger children can be vaccinated at the GP surgery if it is not on offer at their nursery.

They will receive a single dose which is squirted into each nostril causing a little tickle. The virus in the vaccine is altered so that it can’t cause the flu illness but it can replicate in the nasal passage enough to stimulate an immune response.

It takes two weeks for the full immune response to develop.

WHAT ARE THE RISKS?

There is only one nasal flu vaccine that is used in children and in the last decade millions of doses have been given. We therefore know that it has an extremely good safety record.

There are very few children who cannot receive the live vaccine, even if they have a suppressed immune system. Children with a known, documented severe anaphylaxis to egg should be given the injectable vaccine instead of the nasal one.

If your child is acutely unwell with a fever or tummy upset, it is advised to postpone vaccination until they are feeling better, but this is mostly to avoid their symptoms being wrongly attributed to the vaccine. If they miss the school administration they can easily have it at their GP surgery later on.

DOES THE VACCINE CONTAIN PORK?

The nasal vaccine contains a highly processed form of gelatine (derived from pigs). In fact, tests have shown that the gelatine is broken down so much that DNA from pigs cannot actually be detected in the vaccine.

As the vaccine is a non-oral medication, the gelatine content may be less significant for some. Parents who are unsure will need to weigh up the risks of not vaccinating and may wish to consult with their religious leaders. The injectable vaccine does not contain pork products but unfortunately this is only offered in very specific circumstances.

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