Parents are being urged to take up the offer of having their children vaccinated against flu to reduce the spread of the virus.
As part of the biggest ever flu vaccination campaign, the NHS is encouraging parents to sign the consent forms so their children can have the free inoculation.
For the first time, children in Year 7 will also be offered the vaccination, alongside children aged 2 and 3 on 31 August 2020, children in primary school, and any child aged six months plus with an underlying health condition.
Children under the age of five are more likely to be admitted to hospital due to flu than any other age group.
By vaccinating them, not only does it protect them, it also helps to slow the spread of the virus within the community.
Dr Michele Legg, GP and chair of NHS Isle of Wight Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “I want to encourage you to get your children vaccinated because the flu is a very common childhood illness and can be really unpleasant for them.
“Children who are two or three or eligible four-year-olds will be able to have their vaccine done at their GP surgery, while school children will be offered theirs in school.
“The vaccine is a nasal spray – a single spray up each nostril – it's quick, it's painless and it's really easy.
“People think 'it's just flu' but unfortunately it can lead to complications and even hospitalisation which is why it's important to have the vaccination.”
Parents will start to see letters asking for consent from this week.
Jackie Ardley, is chief nurse at Solent NHS Trust, which will be delivering the school vaccination programme across Southampton, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight.
She said: “We are encouraging the families of all Year R to Year 7 children to ensure that their child receives the nasal spray vaccination so that they are protected against the flu this autumn.
“Letters are being sent to schools outlining how our dedicated teams of nurses will be vaccinating children in sessions, as well as offering evening and Saturday clinics.”
Councillor Paul Brading, cabinet member for children's services, education and skills for Isle of Wight Council, said: “After the disruption that coronavirus caused to children's education, the flu vaccine is going to be more vital than ever to ensure the virus doesn't spread through our school and homes.
"It's important we keep our children well and in school so please return your child's consent forms so we can keep our borough healthy."
Flu is a highly infectious disease that is spread from person to person and infects the respiratory system, where it can lead to pneumonia and other complications.
The flu viruses are constantly changing and this is one of the main reasons why people should be vaccinated annually.
The symptoms, that come on very quickly, include fever, chills, headaches, aches and pains in the joints and muscles, and extreme tiredness.
Notes to editors
Each year the vaccination is free for people most 'at risk' of having severe flu:
- anyone aged 65 and over
- pregnant women
- children and adults aged 6 months to 65 years with an underlying health condition (such as long-term heart or respiratory disease, weakened immune system or have a learning disability)
- children aged 2 and 3 on 31 August 2020
- children in primary school
- people living in long stay residential care homes
- frontline health or social care workers
And this year it has also been expanded to include the following groups of people too:
- people living with someone who's at high risk from coronavirus (on the NHS shielded patient list)
- children in year 7 (secondary school)
- People aged 50 to 64 without a long-term condition (from November onwards if sufficient vaccine stock is available)
The children's programme for 2020/21 will be delivered as follows:
- Children aged 2-3 years-old (on 31 August 2020) will be vaccinated by general practice
- 4-11 year-olds (but not 12 years or older on 31 August 2020) in reception class and school years 1-7 will be vaccinated in school
Unsure whether to have your flu vaccine? We hope the below Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) will help.
What is flu?
Flu is an unpleasant disease that spreads quickly and easily through coughing and sneezing. Flu can also give you headaches, a sore throat, fever, chills, and muscle and joint aches. Those people who are at risk, either because of their age or medical conditions, may develop complications such as chest infections and pneumonia.
Why get the vaccine?
The vaccine provides the best available protection against flu. It is not 100% but it will protect a significant number of people and reduce the severity of flu if you get it. It could also help your relatives or carers because you will not be passing the disease to them.
Why don't we use the adult injected vaccine for children?
The nasal spray flu vaccine is an easy, simple, painless way of vaccinating children against flu and is the easiest way to give the vaccine to children, who might often be afraid of needles.
Do all children get the nasal spray?
The nasal spray vaccine is currently only licensed for children aged 2 to under 18 years of age. It is not clinically suitable for a small number of children within this age range, including those with a severely weakened immune system. These children are in the clinical high-risk group for flu and so are eligible to have the injectable flu vaccine instead – advice should be sought from the healthcare professional offering vaccination.
If a child is aged between 6 months and 2 years old and is in a high-risk group for flu, they'll be offered an injected flu vaccine. This is because the nasal spray is not licensed for children under the age of 2.
I've heard that the vaccination can give you flu. Is that true?
No; the flu vaccine that is given to adults is made from dead flu virus and cannot cause the infection. The flu vaccine that will be given to most children is a live vaccine, but the viruses in it have been weakened so they can not cause flu. You may get some side effects after the vaccination but these are quite mild like a slightly raised temperature or aching muscles for a couple of days or an ache in the arm where the injection was given. Other reactions are very rare.
How else does the nasal spray vaccine differ from the inactivated one in the injectable version?
Unlike the adult injectable vaccine, the flu nasal spray is a live but weakened vaccine, which mimics natural infection, whereas the traditional vaccine is inactivated (or killed vaccine). The nasal spray, unlike the inactivated vaccine, may also provide some cross-protection against flu strains not covered by the strains used in the vaccine.
Will the flu vaccine protect me against coronavirus?
Getting a flu vaccine will not protect against coronavirus. However, the flu vaccination has many other important benefits. Flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalisation and death.
I think I have coronavirus symptoms – should I still come in for a vaccination?
The symptoms of coronavirus are:
- A new continuous cough
- A high temperature
- A loss of taste and/or smell
If you have any of these symptoms then you should stay at home and self-isolate and attend only when you have recovered or tested negative for coronavirus.