Published: 11 September 2023
Public health experts in Wales are encouraging parents to vaccinate young children against the flu virus this autumn, to protect them from getting secondary infections. Last winter nearly 800 children aged 2-16 years old were in hospital with flu, 78 per cent of whom were admitted due to flu.
There is still a concern that children who didn’t encounter the flu virus between 2020-2022, when there wasn’t a lot of social mixing, could be particularly vulnerable. Young children can catch and spread flu easily and can suffer unpleasant symptoms. Getting the flu can also lead to secondary infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia. That’s why it is important that parents of two and three year olds take up the offer of a flu vaccination for their children this autumn. Vaccinating children not only protects them, but also older relatives, the wider community and the NHS. All school aged children will also be offered the flu vaccine. Flu viruses change quickly, so every year an updated vaccine is needed to offer protection.
Flu and Covid-19 are both respiratory illnesses that thrive in winter. Getting vaccinated remains our best line of defence against serious disease. The Covid -19 autumn booster programme will also soon be live. Everyone over 65 years old are among those being offered a Covid-19 booster to reduce their chances of getting seriously ill with Covid-19.
To promote these vaccinations, Public Health Wales has launched a campaign to encourage people to protect themselves this winter. Focusing on the theme “putting on your winter coat”, it encourages people to get their vaccines to add an extra layer of protection in the cold months ahead.
GPs and Health Boards will contact those who are eligible with details of when and where they can be vaccinated. People are advised to come forward as soon as possible once they have been contacted to receive their vaccination.
With winter pressures anticipated for the NHS, it is more important than ever that those who are eligible for a free flu or Covid-19 vaccine get vaccinated to help prevent them becoming seriously unwell and protect the NHS this winter.
Dr Christopher Johnson, Consultant Epidemiologist and Head of Public Health Wales’ Vaccine Preventable Disease Programme explains, “Flu can be serious. It is well known that having a flu vaccine every year is one of the most effective ways to protect against flu. Likewise the COVID-19 autumn booster vaccination extends the protection against serious illness. Any side effects from the vaccinations are normally mild and don’t last long. The chances of becoming seriously ill with Covid-19 or flu are greatly reduced by vaccination, as are the risks of spreading these viruses. Vaccination really is the best way to protect ourselves and others this winter from serious illness.”
Minister for Health and Social Services Eluned Morgan said, “Vaccination is one of the most important actions we can take for our own health, and it’s the most important preventative action NHS Wales can offer to people in Wales. The very young and old are particularly at risk of respiratory illness, and our approach for the winter respiratory vaccination programme will ensure that those who are eligible are protected from COVID-19 and seasonal flu. I urge people to come forward for both these vaccines when offered, particularly in the light of the new variant of Omicron (BA.2.86), so we can continue protecting our loved ones and keep Wales safe this winter.”
For the latest information, including who is eligible for the free flu and Covid-19 vaccines, click here.