Families across West Sussex are being urged to make sure their children are vaccinated against flu before the winter flu season begins.
Last year more than half of 2 to 4 year olds in the county were left unprotected from the serious effects of the winter illness.
For the first time this year children in school year 4, along with children aged four and over in school years reception, 1, 2 and 3, can get their free flu vaccination, in the form of a nasal spray, in school.
Children aged 2-3 are also offered the nasal spray vaccine, and can receive it at their local GP surgery, usually by the practice nurse, along with children who are 4 years old provided they were 3 on 31 August 2017.
Children who are home educated will also be offered the vaccine, provided they are in an eligible school age group.
Young children are particularly vulnerable to flu and are most likely to spread flu to others. Vaccinating them is one of the best ways to protect them and the wider community against flu.
While it is early in the season, currently only around 14% of children in this age group have received their vaccination.
Last year, 61% of 2-4 year olds and 46% of children in that age group with long term health conditions in West Sussex missed out on getting the vaccine.
This year, our ambitions are for at least 65% of all 2-8 year old to receive the free flu vaccination.
Flu and complications associated with it cause 8,000 deaths on average a year in England. Around 6,000 of these are people with heart and lung disease.
Dr Katie Armstrong, GP and Clinical Chief Officer of NHS Coastal West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group, said:
“We know that more than 3 out of 4 people with flu have no symptoms but can still pass it on, and children are one of the biggest groups that pass bugs like flu around, especially at this time of year.
“By getting your child vaccinated you are making sure they are protected this winter, helping to protect your family, but not only that, you are also helping to protect the whole community.
“You can make a real difference in helping to stop the spread of flu by saying yes to the vaccination if your child is eligible and encouraging friends and family to do the same.”
Alison Young, Infection Control lead nurse at NHS Coastal West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group said:
“It is great news that this year even more children can have the free flu vaccination, and that it is taking place in schools so it makes it as easy as possible for children to receive it.
“We really want as many young people to get protected as possible this winter as not only will it protect them, but it will also protect those around them – family, neighbours, people in the supermarket – the list can go on.
“The vaccine is given as a single spray squirted up each nostril. Not only is it needle-free – a big advantage for children – the nasal spray is quick and painless.
“Please say yes when your child’s school asks you and make sure they are protected this winter.”
Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, said:
“Any child can catch flu, thousands do every year and some end up in hospital as a result. Parents should not be complacent – the single most effective way to protect your children against flu this winter is to get them vaccinated with the simple nasal spray.
“Children can be super spreaders so getting them vaccinated not only protects them but also those around them.”
The national drive to encourage eligible people to get their flu vaccination is part of Stay Well This Winter, a joint national initiative to help the most vulnerable people prepare for winter and avoid having to visit hospital due to common winter illnesses.
Reducing flu transmission by children in the community has been found to help cut the number of GP appointments and unplanned admissions for children and adults, reducing winter pressures on the NHS.
You should hear directly from your child’s school if they are eligible to have it in school. If they are 2-4 years old, please speak to your GP practice if they have not been invited to a clinic.
The flu vaccination programme will be extended gradually to older age groups in primary school in future years.
Visit nhs.uk/staywell for more details on how to help you and your family to stay well this winter.