Pupils offered vaccine to keep flu bug at bay

Child receiving flu vaccine by nasal spray. Contributed image
Child receiving flu vaccine by nasal spray. Contributed image

Primary school children are to be offered the flu vaccine in an attempt to keep them healthy this winter.

Youngsters in Forth Valley aged five to 11 will receive information and a consent form which will be sent home with children direct from school.

For children under school age parents should arrange an appointment with their own GP practice from October onwards to get their child vaccinated.

With children two to three times more likely to be ill with flu than adults, the programme, commencing this autumn, will help protect children throughout the winter and reduce the risk of flu being spread to others.

The announcement marks the next step in the phased introduction of the childhood flu programme which, once fully rolled out, will see all children aged 2-17 covered.

This is estimated to prevent an additional 200 deaths a year and up to 1,100 hospitalisations.

The new campaign has been unveiled to ensure parents know how the vaccine will be offered and, importantly, how they can make sure their child is adequately covered.

The vaccine will be given as a nasal spray, following last year’s successful pilot where the same vaccine was safely administered to around 130,000 children in Scotland.

Dr Henry Prempeh, Immunisation Co-ordinator for NHS Forth Valley, said: “The vaccination programme being rolled out in Forth Valley will help protect children and stop the spread of nasty flu viruses, which can lead to serious health problems.

“It’s a simple, pain-free process which involves a tiny amount of the vaccine being sprayed into each nostril; it is then quickly absorbed.”

Dr Nicola Steedman, the Scottish Government’s Senior Medical Officer, launched the campaign by urging parents to make sure their child is protected.

Dr Steedman said: “Flu can be very unpleasant for children and, in some cases, it can develop into more serious health complications such as bronchitis, pneumonia and middle ear infection.

“Parents can help safeguard their child against flu by taking up the offer of this free vaccine. It offers protection against the types of virus that are most likely to be circulating this winter.”

Find out more about the flu vaccine for children at immunisationscotland.org.uk/childflu