Children under nine should get two doses of vaccine to 'protect those around them'
Healthy children are being struck by flu and having to be admitted to hospital, Dr Alf Nicholson, a paediatrician at Temple St Hospital, said yesterday.
Children with underlying illnesses are most at risk of complications if they get the flu and they are recommended to get vaccinated in October every year.
So far the number of infected children appears "similar to other years" and there has been no great surge in cases, although that could change, Dr Nicholson warned.
Dr Karina Butler, an infectious diseases consultant in Our Lady's Hospital Crumlin, said children aged under nine, who have not previously had the flu vaccine, should get two doses to maximise protection. The jabs should be a month apart.
Dr Butler, chair of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee, which advises the HSE on all kinds of vaccinations, said flu for most children was a mild uncomfortable illness.
However, she pointed out that children can be transmitters of flu, "particularly to vulnerable adults such as grandparents".
Vaccinating healthy children was a source of protection to those around them, she added.
"They may not be so sick themselves but they pass it on," Dr Butler said.
Even if a child had just one shot of vaccine, they had some protection, she added.
The only available vaccines here are injected whereas they have a nasal spray version which is more child-friendly in the UK.
Dr Butler said the nasal spray with vaccine had been discontinued by US health authorities because it was not seen as effective.
The decision by UK authorities to offer the flu vaccine routinely to young children was being monitored by the immunisation committee here, she added.
Commenting on the fact the standard flu vaccine here does not cover the B strain which has gained ground over so-called 'Aussie flu', she said some years the jab was a better match than others. It was not too late to get the vaccine as flu would persist, she added.