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Flu rising in children but vaccine uptake down compared with last year

Flu rising in children but vaccine uptake down compared with last year

Health officials are urging parents to vaccinate their children against flu amidst low uptake and rising cases.

The latest flu surveillance data from the UK Health Security Agency shows a flu positivity rate in 5-to-14-year-olds of 12% with hospitalisation rates highest in the under 4s.

Figures suggest rapid climbs in flu cases indicating that the season has started earlier than usual.

But compared with last year, uptake of the flu nasal vaccine is lower than last year at 16-17%, the data shows.

It comes as the Government launched a marketing campaign to improve uptake of flu and Covid vaccines following a drop in uptake among some groups.

Influenza rates have been rising across the board, surveillance data shows with the next highest group being 15-to-44-year-olds where positivity is now at 9.6%.

Flu vaccine uptake among the over-65s is currently at 59%, comparable to previous years, UKHSA said.

Dr Conall Watson, UKHSA consultant epidemiologist, said: ‘Hospital admission rates for flu have increased in recent weeks and remain highest in those under 5.

‘Already this year a small number of young children have needed intensive care. Please book your pre-schooler in for flu vaccine at your GP surgery as soon as you can.’

He added that vaccination was currently being rolled out among primary school children and would be available for some secondary school years later in the season.

It comes as levels of Covid-19 shows signs of dropping off with confirmed cases, hospital admissions and suspected outbreaks all decreasing.

The latest Covid-19 hospital admission rate was 10.06 per 100,000 population, a decrease from 11.61 in the previous week.

The R value also decreased and stood at 0.8 to 1.1, with the growth rate range for England at -3% to +1% per day as of 28 October.

A total of 10 million people have now had their Covid booster jab.

Dr Mary Ramsay, director of public health programmes at UKHSA, said: ‘The ongoing drop in Covid-19 cases and hospitalisation rates is a testament to the continued success of the autumn booster programme and it is hugely encouraging that 10 million people in England have already taken up their booster.

‘However, it is vital that we do not become complacent as cases could rise quickly again throughout the winter and we need to be ready.’

In addition to vaccination, she advised people to remain cautious this winter. ‘If you have symptoms of a respiratory infection, it is important to avoid contact with elderly people or those who have underlying health conditions.

‘This will not only help to keep you and your loved ones safe, but will go a long way to relieving the pressure on the NHS through the winter.’


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