The Chief Medical Officer, Public Health England and NHS England are urging people who are offered the flu vaccine, including those who are most at risk, and all two and three year olds (as of Sept 1 2013) to protect themselves from flu this winter by ensuring they get vaccinated against the virus.
For the first time, a nasal spray vaccine will be offered to healthy two and three year old children. This marks the first step in an extension to the national flu vaccination programme, which will eventually include yearly vaccination of all 2-16 year olds.
A study published this week by PHE and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, found children are key “spreaders” of the flu virus. Young children aged two and three will be offered the nasal spray vaccine to protect them against flu, as their close contact with each other means they are more likely to transmit the virus to other more vulnerable groups – including infants and older people.
A national advertising campaign has also been launched by PHE to encourage parents of two to three year old children, as well as people aged 65 and over, adults and children with long term health conditions and pregnant women, to take up the offer of vaccination.
Almost 800 people were admitted to intensive care with complications of flu last year and each winter hundreds of thousands of people see their GP and tens of thousands are hospitalised because of flu.
Dr Sam Ghebrehewet, Interim Centre Director and Health Protection Lead for the Cheshire & Merseyside PHE Centre said: “For the majority of people, flu is an unpleasant, but not life-threatening illness. But it can be very serious for older people and those groups at risk of developing complications including people with weakened immune systems, as well as those with underlying conditions such as neurological disorders, liver, lung or renal disease, heart problems or diabetes, and pregnant women.
Vaccination remains the best way to protect against the potential serious harm from flu this winter.
“This year we are offering healthy two and three year olds a nasal spray vaccine to not only protect healthy children from flu, but to help to reduce the spread of flu and protect others, including younger brothers and sisters, grandparents and those who are at increased risk of becoming seriously ill from flu.”
Fiona Johnstone, Chair of the Cheshire & Merseyside Directors of Public Health “Flu is a nasty illness which can spread easily. This extension to the vaccination programme for children will not only protect more children, it will have a wider health impact in terms of protecting other people who they come into contact with.”
Liverpool GP Dr Nadim Fazlani, Chair of Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “If you’re in one of the groups known to be most at risk from flu – or you’re the parent of a healthy two or three year old – now’s the time to take action. The flu vaccination is the best way to protect both yourself and others against what for some can be a really serious illness.
“Just get in touch with your local GP practice to arrange a vaccination.”
For information on how to get your child vaccinated, contact your local GP surgery.