Few things create as much controversy as childhood immunisation. Despite the many arguments for, and against. Some parents really struggle to make decisions about immunising their children. The new children’s flu vaccine is a case in point.

Who is entitled to the free NHS flu vaccine?

That depends on where you live. Eligible children in the winter of 2017/18 are.

  1. Those born between 1 September 2013 and 31 August 2015.
  2. Children in reception class and school years one, two, three and four.
  3. In several areas, such as Guernsey, all primary school-aged children will be offered the vaccine.
  4. Any child aged 2 to 17 with a long-term health condition is eligible but parents may need to request the vaccine as the universal notification system doesn’t seem to work perfectly.

What form does it take?

The children’s flu vaccine is in the form of a nasal spray. It needs to be renewed every year as flu viruses mutate rapidly and so immunisation only has a limited life. Unlike other vaccinations which offer a lifetime’s protection.

The side effects from the flu vaccine vary from year to year. This year it seems that alongside the usual runny nose and slight temperature, a degree of muscle soreness is being experienced by adult patients. Symptomalogy is not recorded for children but it’s safe to assume they may have achy arms and legs too. If your child is having the flu vaccine, ensure you and your nanny are vaccinated too. Try to arrange a quiet couple of days after your child’s vaccine. Perhaps staying home and having a friend round to play rather than boisterous playdates or trips out.

Why immunise?

Influenza, to give it the proper name, is a serious illness. The Spanish flu epidemic of 1918/19 killed between 20 and 40 million people. It was also the first pandemic to involve the H1N1 virus which broke out again to deadly effect in 2009. Killing between 151,700 and 575,400 people globally. Whilst few flu variants are that threatening. Young children may become ill with complications such as bronchitis or pneumonia.

Why not immunise?

Some parents feel that the reported side-effects are too high a price to pay for a disease that most children don’t get and that those who do rarely experience severely. Some scientists have also questioned the trials that promote nasal flu vaccination for children. Pointing out that this is a relatively new vaccine with few field trial results. It has been known for flu vaccines to completely fail to prevent influenza outbreaks because the rapidly mutating virus can change faster than the drug companies can formulate vaccines.

Are there any children who shouldn’t have the flu vaccine?

Any child who has a runny or blocked nose or is wheezy should have the nasal spray vaccination delayed as this can prevent the vaccine being absorbed into their system. The vaccine isn’t recommended for children

  • with a severe weakened immune system.
  • a severe egg allergy.
  • asthma that is treated with steroids.
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