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Children under five next to receive swine flu vaccine

By Lilian Anekwe

Children under the age of five will be the next in line to receive the swine flu vaccine, the Government has announced.

The Department of Health 'are working with the BMA and NHS organisations' to extend the vaccination campaign to young children aged between six months and five years old.

Vaccination of the under fives will begin as soon as GPs have completed the delivery of jabs to patients in priority groups, the DH said.

GPs have already begun to receive their first doses of swine flu vaccine for the priority groups - people with underlying health conditions aged between six months and 65 years, household contacts of the immunocompromised and pregnant women, as well as frontline NHS workers.

Young children with swine flu are more likely to be hospitalised than adults, and have higher rates of admission to critical care. The highest GP consultation rates are also seen in the under fives.

RCGP chair Professor Steve Field urged parents to make sure their children are vaccinated.

'I know that some parents have concerns about immunisation but the swine flu vaccine is our most effective protection against the virus.

'This is obviously a personal choice but I would advise all parents whose children are offered the vaccine to take it up. If you are worried, please talk to your GP and get all the information so that you can make an informed choice.'

The move to include young children in the vaccination programme has been widely anticipated, but the Department of Health has stopped short of extending the programme to all school-aged children – as demanded by Conservative shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley.

'I very much welcome the decision to begin the vaccination for children under five as this is in line with the emerging evidence that they are one of the groups with the highest rates of hospitalisation which is putting a real strain on the NHS,' Mr Lansley said.

'However, I believe that for children over five the Government should offer it if parents request it.'

The annoucement came as the latest figures from the Health Protection Agency show the number of cases of swine flu continues to decline.

The estimated number of people diagnosed with swine flu fell to 53,000 from 64,000 cases last week. The GP consultation rate for flu-like illness in England decreased slightly to 35.9 per 100,000 in the last week, compared to 37.8 in week 45.

Children under the age of five are to be included in the swine flu vaccination campaign Children under the age of five are to be included in the swine flu vaccination campaign

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