NHS flu vaccine appeal to parents after surge in cases among children

Hospitalisations among under-fives have risen dramatically in England. Credit: PA

Parents are being urged to get their children vaccinated for flu after a significant rise in hospitalisations among the young.

NHS England said the surge in serious cases comes as new figures show vaccine uptake for young children is much lower than last year.

In England, hospitalisations in young children are more than 44% higher than before the pandemic.

Around 650 children under five are in hospital with flu this week - approximately 44% up on the figure of around 450 at the same time in 2019/20.

NHS bosses are pointing to lower vaccination rates as a reason for the increase in hospitalisations.

In the East of England, on average 42% of two to three-year-olds have received their vaccine so far this year, compared to 50% this time last year.

The free flu vaccine is offered to most children. Credit: ITV

Ruth Ashmore, the NHS's lead for vaccinations in the East of England, said: "The number of young children in hospital as a result of flu highlights the seriousness of the flu virus, and that it can a significant impact on a young person's health.

"It's extremely important that everyone who is entitled to a free flu jab, including young children, does have one.

"The flu vaccine will protect the child, their family and the people that they come into contact with."

The latest winter data shows that more than 1,000 general and acute beds were taken up by flu patients every day nationally, with 87 of those flu patients receiving critical care.

The year before there was an average of just 25 patients a day in hospital with flu.

The flu vaccine protects young children from serious illness and hospitalisation.

Young children who can get vaccinated from flu include:

  • children aged 6 months to 17 years with long-term health conditions

  • children aged two or three years on 31 August 2022 (born between 1 September 2018 and 31 August 2020)

  • all primary school children (Reception to Year 6)

  • some secondary school-aged children

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know