The Welsh Assembly Government is encouraging parents/guardians of children aged from six months and under 5 years of age to have their children vaccinated against swine flu. Children in this age group are far more likely to end up in hospital if they contract the virus and vaccination offers the best protection against it.
To highlight the importance of vaccinating young children, Wales’ Senior Medical Officer, Dr Sara Hayes, is today visiting the Oaktree Surgery, Brackla, Bridgend to meet some of the first children in Wales to receive their jabs.
Parents should wait until they are contacted by their local GP or health service about arranging an appointment for their children. Letters to parents and guardians inviting them to make appointments with their local GP surgery have started to be issued in some areas.
Dr Sara Hayes said:
“Young children are particularly susceptible to swine flu and we want to do all we can to encourage parents to take up the invitation to have their children vaccinated against it. GPs are able to provide information on the virus and answer any questions a parent may have.
“Whilst the numbers of people contracting swine flu have gone down in the last few weeks it is too early for us to assume the threat of infection is over. Young children have higher rates of admission to critical care units than other age groups and unfortunately some children under 5 in the UK have died as a result of swine flu. I urge all parents to contact their GP as soon as they are offered an appointment for their child/children.
Vaccinating young children is the second phase in a programme of offering vaccination to the people most at risk from swine flu. The vaccine will continue to provide immunity for several years during which time the H1N1 swine flu virus is likely to still be circulating.
Health Minister, Edwina Hart said:
“We will be offering this important preventative measure to approximately 160,000 children. This is a huge undertaking and shows how the recently created seven local health boards, and GP surgeries, are working closely together to provide an excellent frontline service to the people of Wales.
“I would like to thank them for their commitment to protecting the public against swine flu and the work they have already done to vaccinate more than 300,000 people in the highest priority groups.”
Health professional organisations representing the health profession in Wales have given their support to the vaccination programme.
Chairman of the BMA’s GP Committee Wales, Dr David Bailey, said: “Regarding swine flu vaccination for the under 5s, GPs and health boards across Wales are working co-operatively to free up time to deliver this important public health measure for our children. The provision of protected time to deliver the programme quickly is a good example of the way practices can work with the NHS to benefit patients. Childhood vaccination is a vital part of protecting all our patients and GP practices remain firmly committed to supporting it within the holistic service we provide for our patients.”
Martin Semple, Head of RCN Institute in Wales said:
“The RCN in Wales is pleased that the vaccination programme for swine flu is being extended to young children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years. While the vast majority of people with swine flu have a mild illness we know that young children are particularly vulnerable to severe illness as a result of swine flu and this has resulted in some young children being hospitalised. Vaccination against swine flu is the most effective method of protecting people from catching swine flu.”
The Welsh Assembly Government is providing communications support to local NHS organisations for the roll out of this next stage in the vaccination programme. A leaflet has been produced and is also available on the Welsh Assembly Government website and can be accessed here.
For most people Swine Flu is mild. Patients typically have a fever or a high temperature and two or more of the following symptoms: unusual tiredness, headache, runny nose, sore throat, shortness of breath or cough, loss of appetite, aching muscles, diarrhoea or vomiting.
Some people are more likely to be seriously ill with swine flu. These can include young children over six months and under five years of age with no underlying health conditions. They may need to go to hospital and, in the very worst cases, some may die.
Welsh Assembly Government