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Children in North West refused flu jabs despite advice of doctors

View profile for Judith Thomas-Whittingham
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Doctors in the North West have been told to stop giving flu jabs to children despite a decision earlier this month to use stocks of the vaccine to prevent the spread of the disease in children.
 
The decision to vaccinate children was made earlier this month by Bury Primary Care Trust following a number of recent deaths from swine flu in Greater Manchester, three of which were in Bury.
 
However, the North West Strategic Health Authority last week ordered doctors and nurses to stop giving the vaccine to children in order to bring the North West in line with official government policy. This policy states that the jab should only be given to the elderly, pregnant women or those with health problems. In view of the high incidence of flu in children so far this winter, parents are understandably concerned.
 
Dr Zana Ameen, an NHS doctor whose three year old daughter, Lana, died from swine flu in Stockport on Boxing Day, spoke of his anger at the government’s refusal to vaccinate children. He had previously tried to have Lana vaccinated but had been told she was not eligible as she was not in an ‘at risk’ group.
 
He said: "As a doctor, I can't think of any medical reasons not to make it available to young children. The only possible reason can be saving money."
 
Last winter, children under the age of five were given the swine flu jab, but this year, government policy is that children should only have the jab if they have health problems. They have refused to change this policy even as flu has reached epidemic levels in children.
 
Figures published last Thursday show that the number of flu deaths had more than doubled in a week from 50 to 112.
 
Some parents have been desperately trying to locate providers of the jab for children but with GPs saying that healthy children are ineligible and high street pharmacies saying vaccinating children is against their company policies, the frustration of parents is mounting. Some parents have been forced to take their children to private clinics for the jab which can cost up to £200.
 
Government advisers held emergency talks three weeks ago as flu levels in young children continued to increase. However, they decided there would be insufficient benefit in providing the vaccine as flu rates were likely to fall soon.
 
Microbiologist Professor Hugh Pennington said he was "very disappointed" by the decision not to offer the jab to children, stating that this was contrary to policy in the United States where the jab is routinely given.
Last year, a study by former Chief Medical Officer Professor Liam Donaldson found 70 children died from swine flu in England between June 2009 and March 2010.
 
By clinical negligence specialist, Katie Nolan
 

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