Young children in Wigan skipping flu shot

More than half the young children in Wigan were not vaccinated when flu season hit.

Friday, 25th January 2019, 8:26 am
Updated Friday, 25th January 2019, 9:30 am
Fewer than the national average of children are up to date with their influenza vaccines

Public Health England figures show that just 44 per cent of four to 10-year-olds had been inoculated at the end of November: slightly lower than the rate across England, where 47 per cent of primary school children were up to date on their annual dose.

Of 22,852 primary school children in Wigan, 12,688 had not been given the vaccine, which is delivered in school as a nasal spray.

PHE advises headteachers to make sure their pupils are protected before the winter months.

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Of the youngest children eligible, in reception, 46 per cent had been given the spray - slightly more than the 42 per cent among the oldest, in Year 5.

The vaccine programme runs from September to the end of January, with PHE reporting uptake rates throughout the winter.

By the end of the previous winter, 66 per cent of Wigan four to 10-year-olds were covered, suggesting uptake may have increased considerably by the end of this month. But with flu season under way it’s still important to make sure children are vaccinated as early as possible, says the NHS.

PHE head of flu Dr Richard Pebody said: “Flu can be nasty for little children. Some develop a very high fever or complications, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, and may need hospital treatment. Children also tend to be super-spreaders, so if they get it, they are likely to infect more vulnerable older family members.

“The best form of protection against flu is to get the vaccine if you are eligible, and to practise good respiratory and hand hygiene.”

Dr David Elliman, immunisation expert at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said flu vaccine uptake is always lower than other routine jabs. He added: “But even with a modest uptake you see a reduction of flu in the general community. Any uptake is better than nothing.”