ALL KIRKLEES children under five are to be given the swine flu jab.
GPs across Huddersfield are expected to start sending out letters to parents.
The move comes following an announcement by the Government’s chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson yesterday.
Parents with children aged between six months and five years old will be targeted.
More than three million healthy children under five across the UK are likely to vaccinated with one children’s dose, which is half the usual adult dose.
Currently only youngsters in priority groups with health conditions, including asthma and diabetes, are being offered the vaccine.
Now the programme will be rolled out to include those with no underlying health issues.
Figures show that of 783 people currently in hospital nationally, 176 are under five.
Another 73 are aged five to 15, while 443 fall into the 16 to 64 age group.
Of the 180 in intensive care, 19 are under five and eight are aged five to 15.
And more than a fifth of all swine flu deaths have occurred in children under 14.
A national survey this week showed less than half the patients eligible for the vaccine have taken up the offer so far.
A poll of 107 GPs – for Pulse magazine – found some people were concerned about possible side-effects of the jab.
Others believed there was no need to have it because the virus is mild.
Family doctors are currently vaccinating people at high risk from swine flu, including pregnant women, health workers and those with asthma, heart disease and diabetes.
Overall only 46% of patients offered the jab are thought to have said yes.
Fartown GP Dr Jane Ford – who also sits on the Kirklees district pandemic flu committee and Local Medical Committee – said: “It is really important that anyone who falls into one of the at risk groups takes up their invitation to have the vaccine.
“This is the best way of protecting themselves against potential complications resulting from swine flu.
“The vaccines have been thoroughly tested and trials show that people tolerate the vaccines well and that they produce enough antibodies to provide a high level of protection.”
PREGNANT women in Kirklees are being reassured: “The swine flu jab is safe.”
And they are being urged by health chiefs to come forward for the vaccination.
The call comes after research shows mums-to-be are four times more likely to develop serious complications – including pneumonia and dehydration – if they contract the virus.
They are also five times more likely to need hospital treatment; the risks are highest during the later stages of pregnancy.
Dr Judith Hooper, director of public health for NHS Kirklees, stressed the vaccine is safe for pregnant women. And she said it was vital for protecting the health of mothers and babies.
Her warning came after national figures showed a low uptake of the vaccine by pregnant women.
It is estimated that as few as one in 20 expectant mums have come forward for the jab so far amid concerns of harmful side-effects to their babies.
Dr Hooper said: “Pregnant women are more susceptible to all infections because their immune system is naturally suppressed during pregnancy.
“They are especially at high risk of contracting swine flu as this virus is affecting younger age groups in particular.
“Both of the vaccines which Kirklees GPs, myself included, are using have been licensed for use in pregnant women.”
Dr Hooper said further reassurance about the vaccine was available for pregnant women by visiting the NHS Kirklees website at www.kirklees.nhs.uk.
A NEW swine flu booklet has been launched in Kirklees.
The 24-page leaflet is being distributed to health and community buildings across the area.
The document – Worried About Swine Flu? – explains what swine flu is, how it can spread and outlines the symptoms.
It also provides patients with the latest information about the swine flu vaccination scheme and how the programme is being rolled out.
The booklet explains who is at risk of swine flu. It also gives handy hints to help them avoid catching or spreading the virus.
There is a section on treating swine flu and what to do if someone in your house catches it.
The pamphlet is available from GP practices, dentists, opticians, pharmacies, health centres, local hospitals, children’s centres, Kirklees Council Information Points, community centres and libraries.
It has been produced by the local primary care trust, NHS Kirklees.
To request a copy of the booklet by post contact PALS on 01484 466172 or 01484 466214.
The leaflet can also be produced in languages other than English, in large print, Braille or on audiotape.
For copies telephone 01484 466000.