Parents in London urged to ensure kids have free NHS flu vaccine as hospitalisations rise

Following a surge in serious cases of flu among under-fives in the capital, parents are being urged by the NHS in London to make sure their children are vaccinated if they are eligible for the flu vaccine.

Across England, hospitalisations in young children are over 44% higher than the last pre-pandemic year (2019/20), with around 650 children under five in hospital with flu last week compared to around 450 at the same time in 2019/20. This time last year there were less than 20 children in hospital with flu.

In London, vaccine uptake in children aged two to three is also behind last year’s figures. On average, 33% of two to three year olds in the capital have received their vaccine so far this year compared to 38% this time last year.

The NHS is continuing to see the impact of viruses circulating again post-pandemic. It comes as the latest winter data shows that nationally every day over the past week over a thousand (1,162) general and acute beds were taken up by patients with flu and 87 patients with flu were in critical care beds. The year before there were an average of just 25 patients a day in hospital with flu.

Across the population, the intensive care admission rate is now higher for flu than for Covid-19. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) recently recommended that the increasing level of flu circulating meant that it was appropriate for antivirals to be prescribed in primary care settings for flu.

The flu vaccine can protect young children from getting seriously ill and ending up in hospital. For most children aged two to three, it is a quick and painless spray up the nose which is administered in a GP surgery. If the nasal spray vaccine is not suitable for them, they will be offered a flu vaccine injection instead. More information can be found on the NHS website.

Parents and guardians of children aged two and three and children in a high-risk group can make an appointment through their GP surgery. Parents and guardians of any reception and primary school aged children who missed their vaccination should contact their local school-aged vaccination service or ask at their school if unsure.

Dr Mohan Sekeram, GP at Wide Way Medical Practice said:

“The number of hospitalisations for young children with flu that we are currently seeing is concerning, especially in comparison to previous years. This may be as a result of increased socialising this year, now there are no restrictions due to Covid.

“I would encourage all Londoners who are eligible to get their flu vaccine as soon as possible, and all parents to book in their young children for their jab to ensure they have maximum protection against the flu virus during these colder months.

“It is not too late for children to get the flu vaccine and it is an essential preventative measure to protect young children and keep them out of hospital this winter.”