HYWEL Dda University Health Board is concerned the current low uptake of the nasal flu vaccine in 2–3-year-olds (age on 31 August 2023) could put higher numbers of young children at risk of hospitalisation this winter.
Last year, flu was the primary reason nearly 800 children aged 2-16 years old were admitted to hospital across Wales.
Unfortunately, current data shows just less than a quarter of 2–3-year-olds across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire have taken up their vaccination offer, which is below the national average. Public health officials are concerned that children who did not encounter the flu virus between 2020-2022, when there was not a lot of social mixing, could be particularly vulnerable to the disease.
Despite the current low uptake in younger children, the response has been positive for primary and secondary aged school children where children aged four and over are offered the nasal flu vaccine through the school nursing team.
With the school nursing team still visiting schools up until the Christmas break, we expect a good uptake this season amongst our eligible children, with so far more than six in ten primary school children and more than half of secondary school children taking up the offer.
Dr Ardiana Gjini, Executive Director of Public Health at Hywel Dda UHB, said: “The positive uptake in schools shows that many parents recognise the importance of the annual nasal flu vaccine and are happy to consent to their child receiving it.
“We understand parents are incredibly busy and are often juggling work, childcare and other demands on their time and you may have received an invitation from your GP and could not make the appointment.
“With Christmas fast approaching, we’re strongly encouraging parents to contact their GP practice to arrange that their toddler (2- and 3-year-olds) get their nasal spray flu vaccine without a delay.
“Vaccination protects your child from complications of flu, and reduces the chance of children and young people spreading flu to others. Children who have recently had influenza can also develop a more serious infection during an outbreak of Scarlet Fever.
“By vaccinating your children, you will protect your loved ones at high risk from flu, such as young babies, grandparents, and those with long-term health conditions. Essential before family gatherings and events throughout December.
“Contact your GP practice to rebook your 2- or 3-year old’s vaccination and if their nasal flu vaccination sessions have come to an end, please contact the health board on 0300 303 8322 or email email@example.com.”
Hywel Dda UHB’s school nursing team will continue to visit schools to deliver the nasal flu vaccine up until the Christmas break and will schedule mop-up sessions for children who were absent or unwell during their first visit.
More information on the seasonal flu vaccine is available on the Public Health Wales website https://phw.nhs.wales/fluvaccine.