Healthy children aged between 6 months and 5 years will be vaccinated against swine flu from next month. The Department of Health has made the decision following a sharp rise in the number of children in this age range being admitted to hospital. Children under 5 are three times more likely than other age groups to need hospital care.
Parents will receive a letter from their GP, and the vaccine is expected to be offered to healthy young children before Christmas. The Chief Medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, said, “Protecting those most at risk from the disease will reduce the levels of serious illness. Vaccination remains a personal choice, but I urge everyone who is offered the vaccine to accept it and protect themselves.”
Professor Steve Field, Chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, added, “We shouldn’t underestimate swine flu – it is a nasty infection and its effects can be devastating. I know that some parents have concerns about immunisation but the swine flu vaccine is our most effective protection against the virus. I would advise all parents whose children are offered the vaccine to take it up. If you are worried, please talk to your GP and get all the information so that you can make an informed choice.”
Andrew Lansley, the Conservative health spokesman, revealed, “This is in line with emerging evidence that they are one of the groups with the highest rates of hospitalisation.”
A spokesman for the Department of Health said parents of children who are over 6 months and under 5 years should wait to be contacted by their local surgery.