PARENTS are being encouraged to protect their young children against swine flu by getting them vaccinated against the virus at their local GP surgery or health clinic.
The swine flu vaccine is now available free of charge to every child who is aged six months to five years as part of phase two of the national vaccination programme.
This age group has been identified as the next priority group for the vaccine because they are more likely to be hospitalised if they become ill with swine flu. Young children also have high rates of admission to critical care and sadly, there have been some deaths across the country.
Dr Katherine Gronqvist, Director of Public Health at NHS South West Essex, said: “We are now starting the second phase of the swine flu vaccination programme to ensure children aged six months to five years are protected.
“We know that swine flu disproportionately affects younger people especially children, which is why they are being offered the vaccine. I encourage every parent whose child is offered the vaccine to take it up to ensure their child has the best protection against this virus.
“The number of swine flu cases reported in the east of England is continuing to decline, but the swine flu virus is likely to remain the predominant flu virus for the next three to four years.
“Whilst some people may have already had the virus and may now be immune, the majority of the population remain susceptible to it. It is for this reason that we are urging those eligible to have the vaccine to ensure they are protected.”
Parents of those eligible for the vaccine will be contacted over the coming weeks with details of how to get their children immunised.
NHS South West Essex is asking parents of children aged six months to five years to wait to be contacted for the swine flu vaccine.