In an attempt to limit the number of deaths caused by swine flu this winter the UK government is planning to start inviting all children under the age of 5 years to have the swine flu vaccination. Currently pregnant women, health workers and the most vulnerable people have been invited for the vaccination. Once everyone in these groups has received, or declined, a vaccination, then it will be rolled out to the next group.
There are reports that many people are choosing not have the vaccine due to concerns that there may be long term health problems. However, scientists say that the risk of getting swine flu and developing health problems as a result is higher than the possible risks from the vaccine itself.
The conservative party have also said that they want to see all under 25 year olds get vaccinated, but government health advisers have said that for the moment just the youngest children should be protected.
Swine Flu in Children
There has been a rise in the number of serious cases of swine flu in children recently, with conditions such as sever swelling of the brain putting lives at risk. As more children end up in intensive care it is apparent that more needs to be done to protect them from harm.
Children under 5 years old are 3 times more likely to require hospital treatment if they get swine flu. The current phase of vaccination is expected to be completed by Christmas with the new phase due to start in January.
Opinion of Professor Steve Field of the Royal College of GPs
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.
The two different types of vaccine being used in the UK have been through clinical trials and approved by the official European drugs regulator.
The World Health Organization’s monitoring of problems following swine flu vaccination also indicates swine flu vaccines have a good safety record. WHO vaccine expert Marie-Paule Kieny said: “Reporting so far reconfirms that the pandemic flu vaccine is as safe as the seasonal flu vaccine.