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The NHS is urging parents across the North West to protect their children from flu this winter by making sure they receive vaccinations.
Some of the highest rates of flu vaccine uptake in England have historically been in those with the highest black and Asian populations. But those rates are much lower among primary school children, who usually receive the flu nasal spray – the easiest and best way to protect them from the virus.
The Muslim Council of Britain, in association with the British Islamic Medical Association, has published guidance and downloadable posters to increase awareness of the importance of getting a flu vaccination, along with guidance about the porcine elements of the children’s nasal spray vaccine, and the choices Muslim parents can make.
The injectable flu vaccine that the NHS offers to adults contains no pork gelatine elements. The Fluenz nasal spray for children, however, does contain tiny quantities of pork gelatine, which is used as a stabiliser to make sure the vaccine remains safe and effective during storage.
Unlike the gelatine used in foods, the product used in vaccines is highly purified and broken down into very small fragments called peptides.
The Muslim Council of Britain advises parents who have concerns about pork gelatine peptide content in Fluenz to speak without delay to their GP and a trusted religious scholar, especially if their child has underlying medical conditions that place them at even higher risk from flu.
This year, for the first time, parents who have religious objections to the Fluenz nasal spray will be able to request an injectable flu vaccine for their children from their GP. Limited stocks of this injectable alternative are now available in the NHS, but children in high-risk categories who are medically unable to have the nasal spray vaccine will be prioritised over those objecting to Fluenz for religious reasons.
North West GP Dr Pervez Muzaffar said:
“I urge all parents to protect their children against flu, and to talk to trusted people within their communities about any religious concerns they have about Fluenz.
“There are only very limited supplies of the alternative injectable vaccine available, and this alternative is not as effective for children as the Fluenz nasal spray. If your child has a medical condition that puts them at higher risk of becoming seriously ill from flu, your doctor may recommend the nasal spray’s better protection.
“This year, with high rates of COVID-19 circulating in the community, it is more important than ever to have the flu vaccination. New research from Public Health England suggests that co-infection of both flu and COVID-19 is associated with a greater risk of more severe illness and death.
“Flu alone can be serious and even deadly for older adults, very young children, and people with underlying health conditions. The vaccine is the best protection we have against what can be a serious illness. It protects children and those around them who are at high risk of serious complications if they get flu.”