Wales falling short of flu jab ambitions, despite Public Health warnings

According to a recent poll, only 61% of parents in Wales are likely to vaccinate their child against flu this season despite Public Health Wales’ warning that we are ‘’expecting more flu this year”.

In August, Public Health Wales and Welsh Government, set out their 2021-22 flu vaccination programme. In addition to previous years, the programme was extended to include all children in secondary school years 7 to 11. 

The vaccination programme was targeted at those who were most at risk of catching flu and suffering severe outcomes, or who were at higher risk of infecting other people. 

When outlining their uptake ambitions, Public Health Wales and Welsh Government stated they are aiming for 75% of children aged 2 or 3 years, 75% of school children years 7 to 11 and 80% of primary school aged children to be vaccinated in 2021/22.

But, as we head into winter, a Public Health immunisation update for 2021/22 has shown that ambitions are far from reached. Only 18.8% of children aged 2 and 3 years have received their vaccines. A 56% percent shortfall of the vaccination ambition. 

In an interview with ITV Wales, Dr Chris Johnson, Interim Head of the Vaccine Preventable Diseases Programme at Public Health Wales, emphasised the importance of vaccinating children.

He said: ‘’Children can be quite seriously ill as a result of flu and having the flu increases your risk of things like secondary bacterial pneumonia and other things. We know that children under five are hospitalised with flu at a higher rate than any other age group.’’

He added: ‘’We know that children spread the flu very easily so as well as protecting them, having high vaccine uptake in children and young people protects those around them.’’ 

According to a poll conducted by research company Savanta ComRes, only 61% of parents in Wales are likely to vaccinate their child against flu this season. 40% said that they were ‘unfamiliar’ with the childhood flu immunisation programme – the highest figure across the UK. 

Whilst Public Health Wales acknowledge that parents might not be familiar with the vaccination programme at their child’s school, they emphasise the importance of the vaccination, especially since the pandemic. 

‘’We know, last year, because of lockdown and a number of other things we saw very little flu actually circulating,” Dr Johnson said.

“So the population protection that exists is probably lower, so we know that it’s really important this year to get as many people vaccinated because we are expecting more flu this year.’’ 

When told that in a bad season, approximately 20,000 people in the UK can die from flu and vaccinating children can help to reduce transmission, 62% of respondents in Wales said they would be more likely to vaccinate their children.