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All 2 to 17 year olds can now get the flu vaccine for free

The vaccine will help reduce the spread of the flu to others.

Image: Shutterstock

THIS YEAR, THE flu vaccine has been made available for free for the first time in Ireland for children and young people aged from two to 17 years.

Originally available for children aged two to 12 years, the vaccine and its administration is now also available free of charge up to 17 years. 

Dr Chantal Migone, Specialist in Public Health Medicine with the HSE’s National
Immunisation Office says the extension of the nasal flu vaccine to include young people aged 13 to 17 years is “welcome”.

“The nasal flu vaccine has been available for children in the US since 2003 and in the UK since 2013, allowing millions of children to be vaccinated.

“So far nearly 200,000 children between the ages of two and 12 years have received the nasal flu vaccine through GP practices and pharmacies across the country. The vaccine will be available until mid February, so it’s important for parents to come forward to get their children vaccinated now to protect them against flu.” 

The vaccine will help to protect your child and will help reduce the spread of the flu to others, such as classmates or family members.

Dr Migone highlighted that up to 10% of children under 15 years of age attend their GP with influenza in an average season. “Incidence rates are highest in the younger age groups, leading to high rates of excess outpatient visits, hospital admissions and antibiotic prescriptions,” she continues.

“The flu is more than just a ‘bad cold’, and children are more likely than adults to get severe complications, which can include pneumonia and bronchitis. These complications can worsen if your child contracts both COVID19 and the flu.”

shutterstock_588793064 Source: Shutterstock

Speaking to TheJournal.ie previously, Nora O’Hare shared her daughter Aralynn’s life-threatening experience with the flu. Aralynn caught the flu in February 2018 when she was four years old. Within 48 hours, she went from being “a picture of health” to the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) in Crumlin Hospital. 

“In the wards then, all of her limbs had sort of wasted from that month in ICU, and her muscle. So she ended up in a wheelchair for a while, and at this stage they didn’t know the extent of her brain damage. They felt that she may have been brain damaged and that would affect her ability to speak and walk and all of the normal things, so we didn’t know what to expect.”

“I can remember they said to us that she had sustained some brain damage, called cerebral microbleeds, these tiny little beads all over her brain. She’s just very lucky that none of them were larger.”

After another month recovering in hospital and doing physiotherapy, Aralynn could go home. Thankfully, more than two years on, Aralynn is now seven-years-old, in first class in school and thriving. 

“If I had known that a child, a perfectly healthy child, could get that sick in 24 hours, there is no way that they would have not had the flu vaccine,” said Nora.

Today, Nora can’t stress enough the importance of vaccinating your child against the flu: “Everybody who knows me, anybody who’s close to me, they all get their kids vaccinated against the flu.

shutterstock_1720444675 Source: Shutterstock/David Tadevosian

Getting the flu vaccine helps the immune system to produce antibodies, and can stop your child from getting sick if they come into contact with the virus. 

For children and young people, flu vaccinations are given as single spray in each nostril. Your child can breathe normally during this process – there’s no need to take a deep breath or sniff – making it as uncomplicated an experience as possible. 

The vaccine is absorbed quickly, meaning it will still work even if your child sneezes or blows their nose afterwards. 

Importantly, the flu vaccine cannot give someone else the flu. Since the vaccine was first licensed, there have been no reported cases of influenza passed from vaccinated children to their families or to their close contacts, including those who are pregnant.

The nasal flu vaccine is available for free for children and young people aged two to 17 years. Book an appointment with your GP or pharmacist to ensure your child is protected this flu season. Find out more about the flu vaccine and children here.

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HSE

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