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Parents support child flu vaccine

1 November 2011

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Four in ten parents think all children should be offered the flu vaccine on the NHS, it is claimed.

The survey of Mumsnet users adds weight to a growing consensus among healthcare professionals supporting a policy change to vaccinate healthy children against flu.

Up to 10% of children under 14 were struck down with flu during the 2010/2011 flu season.

The period also saw 70 fatalities in this age group in England and Wales.

Furthermore, many of the deaths were not linked to any underlying health conditions.

The call for flu vaccinations among healthy children comes as a growing body of evidence shows the value of ‘herd immunity’ in protecting the elderly and ‘at risk groups’ from contracting flu.

“Although children without existing health conditions do not often get seriously ill from seasonal influenza themselves, they are carriers and spreaders of infection,” said Professor John Oxford, Professor of Virology, Centre for Infectious Diseases Bart’s and the London at Queen Mary’s, University of London.

“Vaccination provides the best protection against flu and prevents infection being passed amongst very young children.

“The UK still lags behind other countries on this issue despite vaccination being shown to not only protect children but also the elderly and other at risk groups by herd immunity.”

Dr George Kassianos, a Lead on Immunisation at the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), claims, “the considerable personal and economic impact of flu in children is often underestimated…vaccination is without doubt the most cost-effective health achievements.”

The survey of 1,020 Mumsnet users also revealed just a fifth of parents (21%) were aware of one of the most common complications of flu – pneumonia.

Similarly, only 5% of parents identified flu can prove fatal in rare cases.

However, in more heartening results, almost three quarters of respondents said that they would go to their GP for information or advice about seasonal flu and almost a quarter would ask a nurse at their GP surgery.