Parents urged to get children vaccinated against flu

Vaccine is free for children aged two to 17 and is administered by spraying in the nostrils

The free flu vaccine is available through GPs and pharmacists. Photograph: iStock

The free flu vaccine is available through GPs and pharmacists. Photograph: iStock

 

The HSE is asking parents to have their children avail of the free flu vaccine this winter.

The vaccine, which is administered by spraying in the nostrils, is available free to all children aged two to 17, through GPs and pharmacists.

Flu can cause serious illness in children, and those with chronic health conditions are at most risk of severe complications. Children are twice as likely as adults to get flu.

Flu virus can spread easily among children, and to older and more vulnerable people who are around them. The HSE says if enough children are vaccinated, fewer adults will contract the disease.

Over the decade to 2019, almost 5,000 children needed hospital treatment because of flu complications; 183 were admitted to intensive care and 41 died.

Children who have had the Covid-19 vaccine should still get the flu vaccine, the HSE advises. If they have not had the Covid-19 vaccine, they can get the flu vaccine safely at the same time.

“As children are more likely to contract the flu and become seriously ill from it, it is important to protect them and those around us by ensuring they receive their free vaccine as soon as possible,” said Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.

Pregnant women

This is the second winter the flu vaccine is being provided to children. Last winter, during the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, significant stocks went unused due to low uptake.

Ultimately, 226,000 doses of the nasal flu vaccine were administered to children, out of 600,000 supplied.

The free flu vaccine is also recommended for over-65s, healthcare workers, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions that put them at greater risk of flu.

According to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, there is as yet no evidence of flu circulating this winter in Ireland. Globally, flu virus is on the increase, but at low levels.

The HPSC says circulation of flu viruses across Europe is expected in the coming weeks and months.

Levels of RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) activity in Ireland is higher than usually observed at this time of year, it added.