MORE than half of children in the North-East did not take up free flu vaccines last year.

Public Health England figures show that in Darlington, 40 per cent of children aged between two and four had the vaccine, while the figure was 38 per cent for County Durham.

North Yorkshire had the highest uptake at 50.2 per cent, while Hartlepool had the lowest, at 29.1 per cent.

Dr Ranj Singh, a children’s health expert, said: “Flu can cause a week or more of illness and turn family life upside down. Vaccinating eligible children is the best tool we have to protect our kids and families from flu, but too few parents are finding time to visit their GP to vaccinate children yet to start school.”

This year, free nasal spray vaccinations will be available to all pre-school children aged two and three through primary care, and to children aged four to five in reception class as part of the immunisation programme in schools

The programme also offers the vaccine to children in primary school years one, two, and three, and for the first time, this year’s programme offers the vaccine to children in school year four.