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Senior medical professionals are urging parents to get their children vaccinated against the flu, warning that they are ‘super spreaders’ of the disease.
The latest data from Public Health England (PHE) has shown that the number of patients booking GP appointments reporting flu-like symptoms has climbed by almost a quarter (24 per cent) over the last week.
During this period PHE data also shows that the number of hospitalisations from the flu have risen almost two-fold from 2.8 admissions per 100,000 to 4.31.
This comes as figures show that less than one third of two and three-year-olds have had this free inoculation, which, in this age group, is generally administered as a nasal spray.
Commenting NHS National medical director Stephen Powis said, “We know that children are ‘super spreaders’ of flu, particularly around the holiday season when they’re more likely to see elderly relatives.
“So our message is simple: the flu season is here, get your jab now.
“It might be the difference between a Christmas to remember, and one to forget.”
PHE medical director Professor Yvonne Doyle supported this message saying that those with children aged two or three should ensure they are protected against the flu virus ‘as soon as possible’.
And in a wider message to everyone who is eligible for the free flu jab, the Chief medical officer for England Chris Whitty said, ‘The winter flu season has started early in the UK and it is important that everyone who is eligible gets the flu jab from their GP or pharmacist.
‘For older people and those with underlying health conditions, getting flu is particularly bad news because it can lead to really serious conditions like pneumonia and bronchitis, which can mean a lengthy stay in hospital.
‘The vaccine is the best defence against flu whilst practising sensible hygiene can reduce the spread of flu.’
Past research conducted by King’s College London on parent’s attitudes towards the UK’s child flu vaccine revealed that fears over side effects and safety may have a negative influence on uptake.
Commenting at the time, Louise Smith, from the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit (NIHR HPRU) in Emergency Preparedness and Response at King’s College London, said, “These findings highlight that many parents feel they do not know enough about the vaccine and worry about possible side-effects. To improve uptake, messages should focus on beliefs that were strongly associated with vaccination, such as emphasising its effectiveness in preventing flu and highlighting the serious complications associated with the illness itself.”
Before adding, “However, this is easier said than done as we found that certain concepts, such as ‘effectiveness’, were only understood by one in five people. This shows that future messages to parents need to be as clear and comprehensible as possible.”