The best way for parents and carers to protect their toddlers against serious complications of the flu is to arrange a flu vaccination.
The flu vaccination programme is well underway across the South West of England with thousands of parents and carers having already taken up the opportunity to have their child vaccinated against flu.
As a result of COVID-19 restrictions, influenza activity levels were extremely low globally last year. With social mixing and social contact returning towards pre-pandemic norms, it is expected that this will be the first winter that flu and COVID-19 may co-circulate. It is also anticipated that there may be a higher rate of flu infection.
If you get flu and COVID-19 at the same time, research shows you’re more likely to be seriously ill.
If you have a 2 or 3-year-old pre-school child, please make an appointment with your GP practice for them to have their flu vaccine.
Dr Julie Yates, Lead Consultant for Screening and Immunisation for NHS England and NHS Improvement South West, said:
“Each year, the NHS vaccinates millions of people against flu, and this year it is even more important than ever that eligible children and adults take up the offer of a free flu vaccine, as we head towards what is likely to be a very challenging winter for the NHS.
“Infection with the flu virus has a serious impact on the health of thousands of people every winter, and getting your child vaccinated will protect them, and will also reduce the chance of them passing it to other family members and loved ones. This is particularly important at this time of year when several generations of families may be coming together in close contact over the festive period. Please book an appointment for your child to get the vaccine as soon as possible.”
Flu symptoms can appear very quickly and include a high temperature about 38oC, an aching body, feeling exhausted, sore throat and runny nose and loss of appetite. Children may also become less active and get ear pain.
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
- all primary school children (reception to year 6)
- all year 7 to year 11 children in secondary school
- children aged 2 to 17 years with long-term health conditions
Even if your child had a flu vaccination last year, the type of flu can vary each winter, so it is recommended that they have the flu vaccine each year to boost their immunity. The nasal spray is safe and effective and offers the best protection for children aged 2 to 17 years. In some instances, an alternative to the nasal spray can be offered if the nasal spray vaccine is not suitable. However, please speak to your child’s nurse or doctor if they are aged 2 or 3 and your schools’ immunisations team if your child is in primary to Year 11 at school. Parents and carers of home-schooled children should contact their local community clinic.