Parents should get their children vaccinated against the flu, health officials have warned as hospitalisations among youngsters soar.
The number of under-fives in hospital in England due to influenza has jumped 70 per cent in just seven days — with 7.3 admissions per 100,000 in the most recent week.
Meanwhile, less than a third of two and three-year-olds have had a flu vaccine this season, according to data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
Health chiefs warned the cohort is ‘particularly vulnerable’ to becoming ‘very poorly’ from the virus, while parents of those hospitalised due to flu have warn it is ‘every parent’s worst nightmare’.
UK Health Security Agency data shows that there were 7.3 admissions due to flu per 100,000 under-fives in the week to November 20. The figure is up 70 per cent compared to one week earlier, when the figure stood at 4.3 per 100,000
Lless than a third of two and three-year-olds have had a flu vaccine this season, according to data from the UK Health Security Agency
Who should have the nasal spray flu vaccine?
- children aged 2 or 3 years on 31 August 2022 (born between 1 September 2018 and 31 August 2020)
- all primary school children (Reception to Year 6)
- some secondary school aged children
- children aged 2 to 17 years with long-term health conditions
The UKHSA warned flu is circulating at higher levels than in the past few years.
Covid restrictions mean most young children have never encountered flu and have no natural immunity to the virus, it said.
Between November 14 and 20, more than 200 children under five are were admitted to hospital in England suffering from serious complications caused by flu, data shows.
Admissions have jumped every week for the last month.
In the seven days to October 30, there were just 1.4 flu admissions per 100,000 zero to four-year-olds.
But the figure rose to 2.4 in the week to November 6, before hitting 4.3 in the week to November 13 and 7.3 in the week to November 20.
Meanwhile, uptake of the flu vaccine among two-year-olds stands at just 31 per cent and 33 per cent among three-year-olds.
Uptake is down by around 11 per cent compared levels seen over the last two years.
GP surgeries are inviting children who were aged two or three on August 31, 2022 for the nasal spray vaccination at their practices. Parents are encouraged to contact their surgery if they have not received an invite.
All primary school children and some secondary school children are also eligible for the flu nasal spray this year, which is usually given in school.
Dr Conall Watson, consultant epidemiologist at UKHSA, said: ‘Young children are particularly vulnerable to becoming very poorly from flu.
‘For the third week running we have seen hospitalisation rates among children under five jump up, with a 70 per cent increase in just the last week.
‘Over 200 children were hospitalised because of flu in one week.
‘Two and three-year-olds can get protection with a free nasal spray vaccine from the NHS.
‘Nobody wants their child to get sick so I strongly urge parents to book the vaccine at their GP surgery as soon as possible.’
Anjali and Ben Wildblood from Bristol, who are both NHS consultants, saw their child admitted to hospital with flu.
GP surgeries are inviting children who were aged two or three on August 31 2022 for the nasal spray vaccination at their practices. Parents are encouraged to contact their surgery if they have not received an invite
They said: ‘Before we were able to get our two-year-old son, Rafa, booked in for a flu vaccine, over the course of a weekend he became very sick, with a high temperature and breathing difficulties.
‘He had previously suffered with croup and had been treated with steroids, but this was clearly some other very concerning respiratory problem.
‘We took him into A&E, where he was treated and we returned home.
‘But his condition got worse again, with a soaring temperature and exhaustion — he had no strength whatsoever and what was so extremely worrying was that he barely had the strength to breathe — every parent’s worst nightmare.
‘We returned to A&E and he was admitted to the paediatric intensive care unit (ICU).
‘Even as NHS consultants, seeing your child in ICU is a terribly frightening experience.
‘He was put under general anaesthetic and intubated, which involved inserting a tube into his throat so he was able to breathe.
‘His swab results came back showing he had influenza type A. After two long, agonising days of intubation in ICU, his condition improved and he began to recover. He is now home and doing well.
‘No parent wants this for their child or to go through a similar terrible experience.
‘We urge other parents of two to three-year-olds to ensure your child gets their flu vaccine as soon as possible.’