Parents of children and young adults are being urged to get them the nasal flu vaccine before Christmas amid warnings that the circulation of the virus is increasing and younger people are twice as likely to get and spread it as adults.
The vaccine is, for the first time, being offered to those aged 13-17 as well as to children aged two to 12.
“This means all children and young adults between the ages of two to 17 can avail of their free flu vaccine,” the HSE has said.
It is available from participating GPs and pharmacies. Parents and guardians may need to make an appointment and provide their children’s PPS numbers. The HSE is also offering the nasal vaccine to children in senior infants and all children in primary age special schools.
Dr Aparna Keegan, consultant in public health medicine at the HSE’s national immunisation office, said in “coming weeks and into the seasonal break” flu and other winter viruses would begin circulating more widely as socialising increased.
“We know children are twice as likely as adults to catch and spread flu and this poses a threat to them and others. Young children, in particular, are more likely than adults to be very sick from flu,” she said.
“Vaccinating children protects them and their siblings, parents, grandparents and those who are vulnerable.”
Flu can cause serious illness in children, Dr Keegan said. “The number of laboratory confirmed influenza-hospitalised cases in children aged 0-14 years for the 2022/2023 season was 1,274.”
Children are given the nasal vaccine via a spray into each nostril, said the HSE, adding that it is pain-free. Recipients could breathe normally and many reported the spray tickled when being provided.
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