Somerset urges parents to vaccinate children against flu

Somerset County Council is urging parents across the county to ensure young children are vaccinated against flu.

Flu can be a very unpleasant illness in children as they suffer the same symptoms as adults, including fever, chills and aching muscles and in some cases more serious consequences such as pneumonia and sepsis.

The vaccination for children is available free on the NHS for all children who were aged two to seven on 31 August 2016. It is a quick, effective and painless nasal spray.

All children aged two, three, and four will continue to get the vaccination from their GP. Their parents need to arrange an appointment with their GP.

In Somerset children in school years one, two and three will be vaccinated by school nurses at school. This was after initial pilot sites last year, of which Somerset was one, showed this approach was more acceptable to parents, increased uptake and had the greatest impact on reducing illness. Their parents will receive information and a consent form from the school which they need to sign and return to ensure that their child is able to have the vaccine.

Cllr. Anna Groskop, Cabinet member with responsibility for health at Somerset County Council said: “Flu can be horrible for little children and if they get it, they can spread it around the whole family and to friends. The flu vaccine can help protect your child from flu and also reduce the chance of flu spreading to others. Don’t put it off, ask your GP about the flu vaccine or sign your school consent form.”

NHS England South West Consultant in Public Health, Dr Julie Yates, said: “I would urge parents to take flu seriously. Flu is passed easily between children and can be a very unpleasant illness as they suffer the same symptoms as adults, including fever, chills, aching muscles and in some cases more serious consequences such as pneumonia and sepsis, which can be life threatening.

“Reducing the chances of catching flu could mean that parents and their children are less likely to need time off school or work, and will be less likely to suffer serious illness that requires attendance at the GP or in hospital. Young children are also much less able to maintain good hygiene when they are ill and so spread illnesses such as flu to carers and family members’ very easily.

“The vaccination will therefore also provide protection for grandparents, carers and other vulnerable people who may come in to close contact with them.”

The flu programme was launched today as part of the Public Health England and NHS England national Stay Well This Winter campaign.

Other groups eligible to receive the free flu vaccination in 2016/17 are:
• those aged six months to under 65 years in clinical risk groups
• pregnant women
• those aged 65 years and over
• those in long-stay residential care homes
• carers
• Frontline health and social care workers should be provided flu vaccination by their employer. This includes general practice staff.

Full information is available at http://www.nhs.uk/staywell