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Almost one in 10 parents in Norfolk and Suffolk refuse to give child winter flu vaccination

PUBLISHED: 18:19 24 February 2018 | UPDATED: 18:19 24 February 2018

A flu jab. The latest flu vaccination for children is administered through a nasal spray. Picture: Lewis Whyld/PA

A flu jab. The latest flu vaccination for children is administered through a nasal spray. Picture: Lewis Whyld/PA

Archant

Almost one in 10 parents in Norfolk and Suffolk turned down the flu vaccination for their children this winter.

According to figures from Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust, which administer the vaccinations, 9.4pc of the total eligible children in Norfolk and Suffolk have been classed as refusals, which refers to “positive no consents”.

The vaccination, administered as a nasal spray, is being given to children from reception up to year four for free this winter.

Up to the end of January, of the 90,887 children eligible in the two counties, 60,775 were vaccinated, 8,624 did not have consent given. More may have been administered since.

Nicky Srahan, the body’s screening and immunisations lead, said the vaccination’s primary role was to protect children from getting the flu and “potential complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia”.

But she said it was also about protecting the people around children, including families, friends and those who may be more vulnerable to the flu.

“From a parent’s perspective, their child having the flu can lead to time off from work to care for them, with the possibility of taking even more days for themselves having caught the flu in the process,” she said.

“This also affects people that work with children, and some schools in our community have noted that their teacher sickness rates have gone down whilst immunisation numbers have gone up.”

The number of refusals so far breaks down into 9.4pc in Norfolk and 9.6pc in Suffolk, much higher than the Cambridgeshire refusal rate of 5pc.

It also compares steeply to last year - which only saw the vaccination offered to children between years one and three - when 1.4pc of parents in Norfolk refused, and 2.1pc did so in Suffolk.

Ms Srahan said they expect a small number of parents to refuse the vaccination, with concerns often centring on “shedding”, where a child has a very weakened form of the virus for a few days after vaccination.

“This form of the virus is so weak that realistically it is only infectious to individuals with severely compromised immune systems,” she said.

A divisive issue

Choosing to vaccinate children is a continuously contentious issue.

For Chantal Saunders, whose 12-year-old son has cystic fibrosis, it is a necessity.

“One of the first things we were told when our son was diagnosed was that a common cold can kill him,” she said. “After being told that, as a parent, you don’t take any chances.”

She said she respected parents’ choices, but said: “In my personal opinion, those that decide not to vaccinate are not only putting themselves and their children at possible risk, but also by others by passing the infection in the early stages, without realising they have it.”

But it remains divisive. Commenting on our Facebook page, one parent said: “Too many other problems can be caused by a flu jab, I have witnessed it first hand but of course nothing will ever be proved.

“Keep up vitamin C levels, eat a healthy diet and keep active is far better than filling yourself up with chemicals.”

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