Children under the age of five are due to be offered the swine flu vaccine, the government has announced. Immunisation is already underway for those at high risk from the disease, with NHS staff, pregnant women and those with existing health problems being invited for vaccination. But after a recent rise in young children being admitted to hospital with swine flu, the UK-wide programme will be extended to include youngsters aged from six months up to five years.
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Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson confirmed there had been a rise in serious illnesses among young children that was "causing concern". "We consider them to be seriously at risk," he said. "Parents are standing by intensive beds in life and death situations. We are out to save lives and fight this pandemic all the way."
Though the number of under-fives currently needing hospital treatment is still fewer than 200 in England, they are three times more likely than any other age group to require hospital care. The current wave of vaccinations is expected to finish at Christmas, but GPs are being asked to start immunising children once they are close to completing the priority groups.
But a BBC poll conducted this week revealed that many parents are unsure about vaccinating their child. Of the 2,000 surveyed, almost half had their doubts about immunisation. However, the World Health Organization has been monitoring any problems related to the swine flu vaccine. WHO vaccine expert Marie-Paule Kieny said: "Reporting so far reconfirms that the pandemic flu vaccine is as safe as the seasonal flu vaccine."
Will you be immunising your children against swine flu?