‘Cause for concern’ as nearly 9,000 children miss winter flu vaccine

Parents and carers have been urged to ensure children aged between two and three get their flu vaccines. Picture: Getty...

Parents and carers have been urged to ensure children aged between two and three get their flu vaccines. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Nearly 9,000 children aged between two and three in Suffolk and north-east Essex have not received their winter flu vaccines – despite GPs alerting their parents.

So far, less than half of the 6,569 children invited in north-east Essex have been vaccinated – with a take-up rate of 44.65%.

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The take-up of the 4,336 invited children in West Suffolk is just over half, while in Ipswich and East Suffolk 55.56% of the 6,669 children invited have had the vaccine.

It means 8,864 two to three-year-olds have not had the vaccine.

Doctors in the area are now urging parents and carers not to ignore the invitations, with vaccines free on the NHS.

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It is also administered as a nasal spray, squirted up each nostril - removing the pain and fear of needles.

Dr Hasan Chowhan, a GP in Colchester and chairman of NHS North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “The low rate of uptake for children aged two to three years is certainly a cause for concern, and I strongly urge parents and carers not to ignore this offer.

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“GP practices are open for business and protective measures are in place to keep everyone safe, so parents can be reassured on safety.”

Dr Christopher Browning, a GP in Long Melford and chairman of NHS West Suffolk CCG, said: “Flu can be very unpleasant for young children, and it can lead to very serious health problems including pneumonia and bronchitis.

“Children spread flu easily, so getting vaccinated protects others too, such as babies and older people.”

Dr Mark Shenton, chairman of NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG and Professor of Integrated Care at the University of Suffolk, said: “There could be many reasons why parents choose not to have their child vaccinated against flu.

“We know that some parents whose child is not attending a nursery may feel a vaccination isn’t necessary as they are not exposed to other children.

“Yet I would remind parents how easily flu can spread across all age groups, and how a quick and painless nasal vaccine could prevent distress and discomfort in your child.”

James Reeder, Suffolk County Council cabinet member for public health and prevention, said: “The flu virus kills thousands every year, and the flu vaccine helps to protect those most at risk.

“Although things will be different this year, please be assured that measures have been put in place to make sure it is safe for you and those you love to have your flu vaccination.”

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