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Parents urged to get children flu vaccine as infections rise

Stock image of a boy lying in bed having his temperature checkedGetty Images

Parents of children under five are being urged to get them a flu vaccine after a 70% jump in hospitalisations.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said an 11% fall in the uptake of the vaccine among two and three-year-olds came as flu circulated at higher levels than in previous years.

Two doctors from Bristol said their son getting ill with the flu was “every parent’s worst nightmare”.

All children under five can get vaccinated at their GP surgery.

Covid restrictions have meant most young children have never encountered flu and have no natural immunity to the virus, the UKHSA said.

This increased risk has coincided with the uptake of the flu vaccine among two-year-olds standing at 31% and 33% among three-year-olds.

These figures are down by around 11% compared to the past two years, the UKHSA said.

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Anjali and Ben Wildblood and their son Rafa


Anjali and Ben Wildblood from Bristol saw their two-year-old son Rafa become “very sick” with flu just days before he was due to have the vaccine.

The pair, who are both NHS consultants, said their concerns prompted them to take him to A&E where he was treated and sent 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,” they said.

After returning to hospital, Rafa was admitted to a paediatric intensive care unit where he was put under general anaesthetic and intubated.

‘Terrible experience’

His swab results came back showing he had influenza type A and after two days in the unit he gradually began to improve.

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,” his parents said.

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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% increase in just the last week.”

Parents are encouraged to contact their GP if they have not received an invite for a nasal spray vaccination for a child aged two or three as of 31 August.

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.

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