Flu vaccination available for children & young people with learning disabilities in England

As a registered carer, I recently qualified for a free flu jab at my GP surgery. This is really important for parent carers because even if you are struck down with flu, your disabled child still needs to be cared for just the same, as well as the regular things that are more difficult for everyone when they're sick.

When a sick person doesn't rest, their recovery takes longer and if they've caught the virus outside the home, they risk passing it on the child or adult they care for, so it's doubly important to be protected.

But what about the child? As the flu vaccination programme is rolled out, more young people will be included for a free vaccination. Some are already covered if they meet certain criteria But although flu is miserable for any child, for a child with a learning disability whose life is already challenging, it is something that makes things so much worse.

However, when I asked at our surgery about vaccinations for my 15 & 17 year old boys with Aspergers, one of whom has additional challenges from a long-term medical condition, I was told they didn't come under the criteria.

However...

The other day I received an email from the Surrey Coalition of Disabled People of which I am a member, with information of great interest.

NHS England has issued information to say that this year, children and young people with learning disabilities (and similar adults) are being offered the flu vaccine.

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You can read the information I was sent here: Children and young people with learning disabilities flu information sheet

In fact, Mencap has found that almost three in four GP Practices in England do not offer people with a learning disability free flu vaccinations, despite this year’s Flu Plan including learning disability as a ‘clinical risk group’ that should be prioritised. They've called on Public Health England and NHS England to deliver an education campaign to notify all GPs of this change.

Needles to say I printed the information and presented it to my GP surgery and made my boys an appointment at the flu clinic. The last thing they need is being ill in the middle of mock exams - and for my youngest who struggles with PoTS, having a respiratory infection will only make his dizziness 10 times worse.

So I'm taking some time to pass this information on to everyone else - if you're a carer, make sure you get a flu jab and at the same time, book your learning disabled child in for one too - in the form of a nasal spray - if you feel they would benefit.

You may also want to print off the letter from NHS England to social care providers that explains this policy.

Has your special needs child had flu? Will you be getting a flu vaccination?

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Tania Tirraoro

Founder, CEO at Special Needs Jungle
Founder of Special Needs Jungle. Parent of two young adults with autism. Tania is a member of the Whole School SEND Expert Reference Group for SEND Leadership, the Ofsted SEND Inspections Stakeholders Group, and sits on the Advisory Board of the Royal Holloway, University of London Centre of Gene and Cell Therapy.
She is also an experienced broadcast and print journalist & author. Tania also runs a PR, web & social media consultancy, SocialOro Media. She is a Rare Disease & chronic pain patient advocate with Ehlers Danlos syndrome.
Tania Tirraoro
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