Bristol City Council and NHS Bristol Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) are advising parents across the city to get young children vaccinated against flu in order to help stop the spread of the virus.
Flu can be a very unpleasant illness for children as they suffer the same symptoms as adults, including fever, chills and aching muscles and in some cases more serious complications such as pneumonia and sepsis.
Young children come into contact with many different people and environments including in childcare settings, on social play dates and with relatives, so they can spread the virus quickly around family members. Getting children vaccinated can reduce the amount of flu circulating and help to protect the community as well as older or more vulnerable relatives from the virus.
The vaccination is available free on the NHS as a quick, effective and painless nasal spray for children who were aged two to seven on 31 August this year. All children across Bristol aged two, three, and four will continue to get the vaccination from their GP – parents should arrange appointments accordingly.
Across the city, children of school years one, two and three will be vaccinated by school nurses at school making it quick and easy to protect children. This was after initial pilot sites showed this approach was more acceptable to parents, increased uptake and had the greatest impact on reducing illness. 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. Reception class will be invited to go to their GP for vaccination as they fall within the two to four year old group.
Councillor Fi Hance, Cabinet Member for City Health and Wellbeing, said: “Flu passes very easily between children and can be an extremely nasty illness, so I’d strongly encourage parents to get their kids vaccinated and engage with primary schools about the vaccination plans.
“As well as protecting children from the unpleasant symptoms of flu, the vaccine can also help to protect the whole family as young children aren’t as able to maintain good hygiene when they are ill, so they can spread flu to their carers and family members very easily.”
Dr Lesley Ward, Bristol CCG urgent care lead and local GP, said: “For young children the nasal spray is a quick, painless and effective way to be protected from flu without the need for an injection.
“The flu is a nasty illness and can lead to hospital admission. By getting the vaccination it gives the child the best chance of not contracting the illness and will stop the spread to family, carers and other children.”
Prior to offering vaccination to all our youngest primary school aged children this season, school age pilots took place in a number of areas across England in 2014 to 2015. In areas where flu vaccine was piloted amongst primary school age children, there was a 94% reduction in GP influenza like illness consultation rates, 74% reduction in A&E respiratory attendances and 93% reduction in hospital admissions due to confirmed influenza in primary school children. In the same pilot areas, GP ‘influenza like illness’ consultation rates for adults were 59% lower compared to non-pilot areas.
The flu programme was launched on 12 October as part of the Public Health England and NHS England national Stay Well This Winter campaign.
Other groups eligible to receive the 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
- frontline health and social care workers should be provided flu vaccination by their employer. This includes general practice staff.