Millions of children exposed as flu spreads following vaccine delays

Millions of children exposed as flu spreads following vaccine delaysMillions of children are at risk of flu amid a drop in uptake of vaccinations, after deliveries were delayed, officials have warned.  New figures show the number of people hospitalised because of flu has tripled in a fortnight, with the virus spreading before many of the most vulnerable have been protected.  Last night health officials urged parents to come forward and ensure children receive vaccinations. They are particularly alarmed by low uptake among toddlers, dubbed “super-spreaders” because they tend to pass on the virus to high numbers of people, including elderly grandparents.  Officials also warned that winter vomiting bug is on the rise, with twice as many hospital beds closed as this time last year.  Hospitals in England have been forced to close more than 1,100 hospital beds over the last week due to norovirus. The new flu figures show uptake of the nasal vaccine among two-year-olds is just 25.5 per cent, compared with 34.9 per cent this time last  year. And just 24.4 per cent of three-year-olds have received the vaccine, compared with 35.7 per cent at this time in last year’s season. The latest weekly data from Public Health England show the hospitalisation rate from flu is now at “moderate intensity” – 4.3 admissions per 100,000 people, up from 1.4 admissions per 100,000 two weeks before.  Manufacturers have been beset by delays delivering the vaccine, as a result of problems testing it.    Health advice | What should I do if I feel the flu coming on? As a result, schools were last month told to cancel vaccinations, with GPs urged to prioritise toddlers and the sickest children.  Health officials said the dealys were now resolved, and urged parents to take any unvaccinated toddlers to their doctor.  Dr Jamie Lopez Bernal, Head of Flu, Public Health England said: "Flu season has now started and so it’s really important that people get their flu vaccine as soon as possible to ensure they are protected against this potentially very serious illness. The initial evidence suggests the vaccine is a good match for the main strain of flu that is circulating. “Vaccination uptake in toddlers is lower than we would hope for at this point in the year due to previous delays in delivery of the vaccine, which are now resolved. If you have children aged two to three go to your GP to get them vaccinated now.”



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