Friday, 20 November 2009

Swine flu vaccine to be offered to children

Children aged over six months and under five years will be offered the swine flu vaccine.

A total of 168,000 children fall into this category in Wales.

Vaccination of people in clinical risk groups under the first phase of the vaccination programme is well under way. Vaccinating these groups remains a priority to protect those at greatest risk from swine flu.

The UK health departments are working with the British Medical Association and NHS organisations to agree the details of how young children will be offered the vaccine once general practitioners (GPs) complete the vaccination of priority groups.

It's expected that children will be offered the vaccine from December. Parents of children who are over six months and under five years should wait to be contacted by their local surgery.

The Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Tony Jewell, said:

"The four UK Health Ministers have agreed that the second phase of the swine flu vaccination programme should focus on all children aged six months and over and under five years.

"Evidence shows that young children are suffering the greatest overall impact from the disease. They are particularly vulnerable to complications and more likely to become seriously ill and need hospital treatment than other groups. Young children are effective spreaders of the disease and the clinical attack rate is also higher, meaning a greater proportion of children will become ill. Vaccination will mean that fewer children in this age group will become seriously ill and need hospital treatment.

"Vaccination is the simplest, safest and most effective way of protecting people’s health and will help in our efforts to minimise its impact on individuals and communities.

"We expect vaccination to be through GPs, and are exploring with the General Practitioners Committee how best to do this. The programme will begin very shortly once phase one of the vaccination programme targeting the original priority groups is coming to an end. Parents will be contacted by their GP surgery inviting them to have their eligible children vaccinated.

"The approach has been agreed by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE).

"In addition, advice from the JCVI has suggested that main carers for elderly or disabled people should be an important next group. We will discuss this advice with carers’ organisations, including a number of practical questions, including how to identify and verify the carers involved.

"While the vast majority of people, who contract swine flu, get over it within five to seven days, with rest, plenty of fluids and paracetamol, some people experience severe complications and even die.

"Sadly, this week, we have seen a further increase in swine flu-related deaths. However, we are aware that a number of these people had been seriously ill for some time. This is a tragedy for the families and friends of the individuals but unfortunately, we have been expecting to see an increase in the number of deaths. This is the same for seasonal flu in the winter.

"Whilst reported cases of swine flu have recently started declining, it is too early to draw any conclusions about the number of future cases."


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