Flu vaccination: Parents urged to protect kids this winter

Pictured are representatives from the Western Trust's School Nursing Team and Child Health Department launching the Childhood Flu Vaccination programme for 2015/16.
Pictured are representatives from the Western Trust's School Nursing Team and Child Health Department launching the Childhood Flu Vaccination programme for 2015/16.

The Western Trust School Nursing Team are asking parents to help protect their children this winter by ensuring they take up the childhood flu vaccination programme which will be offered to all primary school children over the next few months.

The vaccine changes each year to cover the strains which are likely to be prevalent over the course of the flu season, so it’s important that children get immunised annually.

All pre-school children aged two years and over on 1 September 2015, and those in primaries one to seven, will be offered the flu vaccine as part of the programme. The vaccine will be administered through schools.

Younger pre-school children can receive the vaccine from their GP surgeries.

Irene McSorley, Western Trust Team Leader for School Nursing explains: “The Trust’s School Nursing Service will be offering the programme to all primary school children in the Western Trust area.

Parents of primary school children should look out for letters and consent forms over the next couple of months as children should be bringing them home in their school bags.

It is important that consent forms are completed, signed and returned to the school promptly so that your child can be protected with the vaccine.”

She added: “The School Nursing Team will be visiting 178 primary schools across the Trust during the coming months to offer all children in P1 – P7 the Fluenz Tetra® vaccine (nasal spray).

This will mean that 27,979 pupils will be better protected against flu bringing both health benefits and less time off school.”

Ann McDuff, Assistant Director, Community and Public Health for the Western Trust explained: “Since implementation in 2013 the Childhood Flu Vaccination Programme has been an excellent achievement, demonstrating the skill and commitment of School Nursing Teams and the commitment of parents to ensuring their children are better protected against this unpleasant and potentially serious infection.

The uptake across the Western Trust area last year was 76.2% and we would aim to increase the uptake this year.

The 2015 vaccine programme will start on the 15 October 2015 and the target is to have it finished by mid-December 2015 to ensure children are protected before the flu virus starts circulating.

Nearly all children will receive the vaccine via a quick and painless nasal spray.

The nasal vaccine has been shown to provide even greater protection for children than the flu injection.

There are a few children who cannot receive the nasal spray and they will be offered the injection instead.”

Dr Lucy Jessop, Consultant in Health Protection at the PHA, said: “Immunisation for this age group is very important as the flu virus spreads easily and quickly, infecting both adults and children alike.

“Flu causes unpleasant symptoms such as fevers, chills, aching muscles and joints, headaches and extreme tiredness. These symptoms can last between two and seven days, and for some can lead to serious illness and result in a stay in hospital.

“Last year, in Northern Ireland 80% of children were vaccinated and a similar uptake this year could have a significant impact on the amount of flu we may see.”