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Parents urged to sign children up for flu vaccine

The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) is encouraging parents to sign their children up for a free naas flu vaccine as soon as possible, with the return of the winter flu expected in the coming weeks.

Over 1,000 pharmacies in Ireland are offering nasal spray flu vaccines which are free for all children aged between two and 17, and the IPU has said that early vaccination provides the most effective protection for children and the wider community.

Speaking on the importance of vaccinating children against the flu, IPU President and community pharmacist, Dermot Twomey said: “Children are twice as likely as adults to get the flu and are also more likely than adults to get severe complications of flu. Flu vaccination is quick and easy for children and because it is administered via a nasal spray, there are no scary needles or pain involved.

“As we face into a winter with the dual threats of flu and COVID-19, it is important to do everything we can to minimise infection rates in our communities. Children under 12 are not yet eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine but y they can get protection from the flu, and it is important that as many as possible do so.

Uptake of the free children’s flu vaccine was disappointing in 2020.  “This year, with vaccines front and centre of everyone’s mind, we are hoping for a much stronger uptake.  Thankfully, early indications suggest that more parents are coming forward to get their children vaccinated this year. 

Mr Twomey added that the flu vaccination is required every year. “An annual vaccine is essential. Most children need only one dose of the vaccine each year. The influenza virus changes slightly each year and  there is no guarantee that a flu vaccine that your child got in previous years will offer them protection from the strains of the virus that will hit Ireland during this year’s flu season. 

Children who are sick with flu miss days in crèche, childcare and school, and they also miss out on hobbies and sports. They may also require a PCR test to rule out COVID-19, which many children find unpleasant. A flu vaccine ensures that a child is protected from a serious illness and that they can engage in their normal activities.”