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Value of Vaccines Q4 2020

Why paediatric immunisations are now more important than ever

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Dr Helen Ratcliffe

Paediatric Clinical Research Fellow, Oxford, Vaccine Group iBSc MBBS MRCPCH

Dr Sarah Rhead

Paediatric Clinical Research Fellow, Oxford Vaccine, Group BSc MBChB MRCPCH

At a time where COVID-19 is overwhelming our NHS, paediatric immunisations are vital in the effort to reduce the number of hospital admissions, both in the paediatric and elderly population.

The annual flu vaccination programme plays a vital role in supporting the NHS. According to Public Health England’s annual Surveillance of influenza, last year almost 8,000 people died as a result of the flu in England. 

The flu vaccination for children, which is a nasal spray, is offered to all children from aged two up to and including year seven at secondary school. However, the uptake varies significantly through different age groups.

Last year, uptake of the vaccination in two- and three-year olds was 43.8%, compared with 60.4% in primary school age children. The reason for children being a focus of the flu vaccination programme is that, unlike COVID-19, we have clear evidence showing children are more vulnerable to flu and they are more likely to pass it on, often to older relatives.

Last year, almost 8,000 people died as a result of the flu in England.

Parents will be asking themselves “what can I do to help with the COVID-19 crisis?”. Evidence shows that vaccinating children against flu reduces flu-related illness, GP visits, hospital admissions and deaths for the whole community. This simple step could help protect not only your child, but those who are most vulnerable to flu and COVID-19 in our communities.

School children from reception to year seven are immunised at school, two and three year olds are immunised at their GP practice. The nasal flu vaccine is a live attenuated influenza virus, which means it contains a live virus that has been weakened. In healthy people it will create an immune response without making your child sick. 

If you have any concerns about the flu vaccine, please talk to either the school nurse or your general practitioner. At a time when hospitals are already overstretched, the more of our community that we can protect from the flu, the more we can reduce the burden on our NHS.  

You can find out more about vaccines from the Vaccine Knowledge Project which is managed by the Oxford Vaccine Group at the University of Oxford.

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