Croydon’s health and care bodies are urging parents to vaccinate their toddlers against the flu this winter after figures reveal that only one third (33.3%) of two to three year olds in the borough had their free flu vaccination last year – well below the national average.
Croydon Council, Croydon Clinical Commissioning Group and Croydon Health Services are warning that little children are some of the worst affected by the flu virus and, if they get it, they are likely to infect other members of their family too. Children and those with health conditions such as severe asthma, chest or heart complaints and diabetes, are at greater risk of contracting the virus.
Free vaccinations are offered to young children, as well as pregnant women, residents who are over 65 and some adults with certain health conditions. People can ask their pharmacist or GP for advice about the flu vaccination, even if they are feeling healthy. A charge may be applied if you are not eligible for a free NHS or employer-funded vaccine.
Children aged two and three can be taken to their GP to be vaccinated where, in most cases, they will receive a nasal spray that is quick, free and painless. For school-age children, the vaccine is usually provided free of charge in school.
Carers and frontline health and social care staff are also being encouraged to have the flu vaccination to protect both themselves and the individuals they care for.
Flu is caused by different strains of influenza viruses. It is highly contagious and results in suffering and often serious illness to many Croydon residents every winter. The flu can be passed on through coughing or sneezing, or by touching infected surfaces where the virus can survive for 24 hours.
The symptoms for poorly toddlers include fever, chills, aching muscles, headache, a stuffy nose, dry cough or sore throat. Unfortunately, some children also go on to develop a very high fever or complications of flu, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, and may require hospital treatment.
Rachel Flowers, Croydon’s Director of Public Health, said: “Flu can be an extremely serious and unpleasant illness for many people, but for the most vulnerable it is extremely dangerous and can be life-threatening. This is why the flu vaccine is offered for free to children, carers, vulnerable groups and some frontline workers, because they really do need to have it, before the flu season begins in early December”
Dr Agnelo Fernandes, a local GP and Clinical Chair of NHS Croydon Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “To help tackle the spread of flu throughout the borough this winter, residents should seek advice about the flu vaccination from their GP, pharmacist or midwife before they start to feel unwell. Every child between the ages of two and 10 is eligible for the free vaccination, but too many parents in Croydon are not heeding professional advice to protect their children. This increases the risk of other family members also contracting flu.”
Croydon Dr John Chang, paediatric consultant and head of research at Croydon Health Services NHS Trust, said: “Exactly one third of two-three year olds in Croydon had a flu vaccination last year and it’s within the public’s power to double or even triple that amount. We should start by exceeding the national average of 44%. Our NHS offers free vaccinations to all vulnerable people, please do take up this offer. Getting vaccinated also helps our NHS staff to focus on other illnesses and emergencies during our busiest time of the year. It’s a small but powerful gesture.”
Notes to editors
National average of flu vaccination uptake for 2 year olds is 43%, while the average figure for 3 year olds is 44%.