Immunise your children against flu, mum urges

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Marianne Alcala said she wanted to speak out about the benefits of immunising children after seeing misleading comments from concerned parents on social media.

The 37-year-old from St Helier said she did not want another parent to go through the same ‘scary’ time that she experienced when her daughter Stephanie became ill with the flu.

‘My daughter was three years old,’ Ms Alcala said. ‘She was supposed to have the vaccine in October but because she is asthmatic, and started to have asthma attacks at the time, the GP recommended against getting the flu vaccine at that time.’

However, Stephanie began suffering from a high temperature the following February, prompting Ms Alcala to take her to the doctors.

‘I took her to the GP but because there are so many viruses going around at that time of the year they didn’t know what it was,’ Ms Alcala, who is also mother to Sebastian (11), said.

Back at home, Ms Alcala gave her daughter paracetamol to try to reduce her temperature but it continued to soar.

‘Her temperature was nearly 40°C,’ Ms Alcala, a kitchen assistant at JCG, said. ‘We could not take it down. We took her to A&E. They did a mouth swab to see whether she had flu and the result was that she had.

‘She was just lying there on the hospital bed. She is normally a very happy girl. It was so sad and quite a scary moment.’

The family spent nine hours at the Hospital until medics said Stephanie was able to go home. She was prescribed Tamiflu – a medication which prevents the flu virus from replicating itself but is not an alternative to the vaccine.

‘When we started treatment with the Tamiflu, her temperature started to come down very quickly,’ Ms Alcala said. ‘A consequence of the Tamiflu is she had pain in her tummy.’

Stephanie, now four and a pupil at Grouville School, has been able to have the nasal vaccine this year and Ms Alcala said it was a relief to know she had been immunised.

She is now urging parents who do not want to vaccinate their children to reconsider.

‘I’ve heard some parents say they’re not going to take their kids to school because of the flu vaccine,’ Ms Alcala said. ‘You cannot force people to think the way you think but, at the same time, to see your son or daughter feeling like that after contracting the flu is quite awful and scary.’

Earlier this week, Dr Linda Diggle, head of preventative health, said some parents had fallen victim to misinformation about the flu vaccine on social media.

However, latest figures show that 60 per cent of children (4,500) had received the nasal spray during the primary school vaccination programme, which is now complete. This is a one per cent increase on last year’s figure. The immunisation programme for children in nurseries and secondary schools is now under way.

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