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Low uptake of flu vaccinations among 2 and 3 year olds

Many young children aged 2 – 3 years in Suffolk and north east Essex have not received their flu vaccination this year, despite their parents or carers having received an invitation from their GP practice.

Local healthcare professionals are urging parents and carers not to ignore the invitation and take up the offer a free flu vaccination for their child.

Although overall flu uptake in the area has been good, the latest figures for the 2-3 year old  age group shows:

• NHS North East Essex CCG area – 6569 invited for vaccination, with a take-up rate of 44.65%
• NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG area – 6669 invited for vaccination, with a take-up of 55.56%
• NHS West Suffolk CCG area – 4336 invited for vaccination, 50.93% take-up

The vaccination for young children is administered as a nasal spray squirted up each nostril and is quick and painless.

Dr Hasan Chowhan, a GP in Colchester and chairman of NHS North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The low rate of uptake for children aged 2 – 3 years is certainly a cause for concern, and I strongly urge parents and carers not to ignore this offer.

“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 Clinical Commissioning Group, 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 Clinical Commissioning Group 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.”

Cllr James Reeder, Suffolk County Council Cabinet Member for Public Health and Prevention, said: “If your child was aged 2 or 3 on the 31 August, protect them and those around them with a free flu vaccine. It’s just a quick nasal spray.

“The flu virus kills thousands every year, and the flu vaccine helps to protect those most at risk. Your GP practice will contact you about your free vaccine.

“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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