Getting the flu vaccine for your child should really be a no-brainer, say Cork doctors

Wondering whether or not your child should get the free nasal flu jab this year? EMMA CONNOLLY talks to Cork GPs
Getting the flu vaccine for your child should really be a no-brainer, say Cork doctors

At the launch of the Nasal Flu Vaccine Campaign were Megan Ayres (9) and Evelyn Ayres (6). Picture: Marc O'Sullivan

GETTING your child vaccinated against the flu will ultimately protect a parent’s ability to go to work, or prevent a family having to quarantine.

That’s according to Cork GP Dr Nick Flynn, who is urging parents to avail of the free children’s nasal flu vaccine, available to those aged two to 12 for the first time this year.

Dr Flynn says not only will it protect against the flu, it will also protect against other respiratory illnesses which may require a Covid-19 test. And while a family is waiting for the results of a Covid test, they have to quarantine, limit movements and stay off work.

“So the vaccine is a no-brainer. For a family it will obviously mean less flu-like illness, but also less Covid tests and less time off work,” he said.

On top of that, he said the vaccine is very safe and well tolerated by children.

“It’s a win-win to get it,” he said.

And while there are very limited supplies of the adult flu vaccine, which means it has to be administered judiciously to those who need it most, he said the HSE has procured a very good supply of the paediatric vaccine.

Dr Flynn is a senior partner in MyCorkGP.ie, Cork’s largest GP practice, with clinics in Douglas, Hollyhill, North Main Street and Grenagh, where he’s seeing a 20-30% uptake of the vaccine so far.

A national survey has found that almost eight in 10 parents are reporting that their children have either already been vaccinated, or have an appointment to do so within the next two weeks.

The nasal flu vaccine is not a new vaccine and has been offered to children in the UK since 2013. This is the first year it’s available here, from GPs and pharmacies.

The vaccine is easily administered with a single spray in each nostril of a child’s nose. Many parents of kids already vaccinated say their child compared it to a tickle up their nose.

Children are twice as likely to get the flu than adults and the HSE reports that, over the last 10 years, more than 5,000 children in Ireland were admitted to hospital as very unwell.

However, over half, or 53% of parents surveyed were not aware of the increased chance of serious complications from the virus.

Professor in Immunology at Trinity College Dublin and mum of three children, Dr Rachel McLoughlin pointed out these complications include things like pneumonia, bronchitis and painful ear infections

“In this current uncertain world, it just makes sense to protect your children against the diseases that we have vaccines for and one of those is flu.

“We have a safe and easy to administer vaccine for children, with no needles required, that will protect them from the virus that causes flu.

“A simple squirt up the nose and they are fully protected.

“The last thing any parent wants right now is to have a sick child that requires a trip to the hospital in the midst of this pandemic. This is why it is so important for them to get the flu vaccine this year, when hospitals are already under immense pressure,” she said.

Dr Eleanor Galvin is a GP in a family practice and mum of four.

Originally from Cork city, and now Dubln-based, she said: “The introduction of the children’s nasal flu vaccine should be welcomed by all parents. It’s free, painless and has little to no side effects.

“With our nation’s Covid-19 infections still fluctuating dramatically between lockdowns, alongside the effort to keep schools open this academic year, getting the flu vaccine for your children should really be a no-brainer.”

Laura Erskine, parenting expert with BabyDoc Club, pointed out that as young people aren’t obliged to wear face masks, they are more vulnerable to infection: “Since the coronavirus and flu viruses are respiratory viruses, some of the symptoms can be remarkably similar. This will make it hard for parents and health professionals to make a call as to whether a child is suffering from flu or has contracted coronavirus, without a test.

“As both infections are easily spread through coughing and sneezing and children back in school, it makes sense for those aged 2-12 to get vaccinated against flu.”

The HSE and medical experts are keen to point out to parents that you can’t get the flu from the flu vaccine. A small number of people might experience some mild side effects, including a runny nose, headache or temperature which can be treated with over the counter paracetamol medicine.

The last thing any parent wants right now is a sick child that requires a trip to the hospital in the midst of this pandemic. This is why it is so important for them to get the flu vaccine this year.

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