Health officials are using the idea of children being “super-spreaders” of influenza to encourage vaccination uptake ahead of the Christmas period, in order to protect older people.
NHS leaders urged parents to take up the free flu vaccine for children, highlighting that family get-togethers spread the infection, putting grandparents and other vulnerable relatives at risk.
“There’s still time for parents to get their ‘super-spreader’ children vaccinated”
In a statement, NHS England and Public Health England noted that it had dramatically expanded free flu vaccinations this year to cover children in school year 4 and care home workers for the first time.
However, fewer than one in five school age children, 18%, has so far had the nasal spray immunisation, according to the latest figures.
The two national bodies said they were also calling on hundreds of thousands of frontline social care workers, who have contact with numerous vulnerable people, to take up the free flu vaccine.
As previously reported, for the first time, the NHS is providing £10m to offer vaccines to registered residential, nursing and home care staff to help curb the spread of flu to older people in their care.
It is hoped the investment will also ease the pressures that a heavy outbreak of influenza could place on NHS services, especially over the busy Christmas and New Year holiday period.
“The nasal spray vaccine last year reduced children’s risk of flu by 65%”
Professor Keith Willett, NHS England’s medical director for acute care, said: “Flu can be spread more easily by children, especially to vulnerable relatives such as older grandparents, those with heart or lung conditions and pregnant family members.
“With less than a month until family gatherings over the festive season, there’s still time for parents to get their ‘super-spreader’ children vaccinated to help protect elderly relatives over Christmas and before the flu season traditionally reaches its peak,” he noted.
Dr Paul Cosford, medical director at Public Health England, added: “The vaccine is the best protection there is against flu, which causes on average 8,000 deaths a year.
“The nasal spray vaccine last year reduced children’s risk of flu by 65% meaning they were less likely to spread it to relatives and others they come into close contact with,” he stated.