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Campaign to protect families against flu is launched this week

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NHS Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), NHS East Lancashire CCG and East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust (ELHT) are once again targeting families this year in a major drive to protect them from flu.

The campaign, running across East Lancashire (including Blackburn with Darwen), is urging parents/guardians/carers to vaccinate their children against flu. The vaccination not only protects the child, more importantly it helps stop the spread of the illness especially to those older members of the family such as grandparents. It can cause severe illness and even death among vulnerable groups including older people, pregnant women and people with an underlying health condition.

Schoolchildren will receive their letters this week asking their parents to consent to them receiving the potentially life-saving vaccination. For the first time, electronic letters are also being distributed to make it easier for parents so they don’t get missed in the school bags.

Two years ago when there was a significant increase in the number of children vaccinated in East Lancashire, there was a dramatic reduction in emergency admissions of children during that winter – showing the impact the flu vaccination can have. she

Dr Preeti Shukla, a GP in Blackburn and a clinical lead at NHS Blackburn with Darwen CCG, said: “A big ‘thank you’ to all the parents who made the decision to vaccinate their children against flu last year. You protected your child and your wider family from a very serious illness.

“But we are still falling short of the 60 per cent target for all eligible schoolchildren. And unfortunately the number of two and three year olds who had the flu nasal spray in East Lancashire is still one of the lowest in Lancashire. Older children, with underlying health conditions, are also eligible for the flu vaccination but are not receiving the vaccination so we need to ensure that we don’t forget about them too.”

Flu is a disease which spreads very rapidly and can be very unpleasant in babies and children - some can develop a very high fever or even serious complications of flu such as bronchitis, pneumonia, middle ear infection, meningitis, encephalitis and very occasionally a child may die from flu.

So even if your child is healthy, offering them the vaccination can protect them against this illness. But it can also reduce the spread of flu and help protect the whole population. Children are germ carriers and can easily pass the illness on to older and more poorly members of the family.

For children, the NHS use the nasal spray vaccine because it protects them better, for longer, and is easier and more comfortable for children than the injection. The flu virus enters the body through the nose and mouth so the vaccination spray is given through the nose so it mimics the flu virus and results in a better immune response than an injected vaccine.

Dr David White, a Burnley GP and clinical lead at NHS East Lancashire CCG, said: The vaccine is free, safe and painless. The decision to have your child vaccinated against flu is yours of course, but we would like you to be fully informed of the advantages and disadvantages before making your decision once again this year.”

Dr Chris Gardner, a Consultant Paediatrician at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, added: “Children under five are the most likely to be admitted with flu complications and it tends to be the sickest and most vulnerable children who are the hardest hit. By vaccinating your child, you have not only protected them but the more vulnerable children in school and your local community.

“In 2017 when more than 30 per cent more parents vaccinated their children, we saw a drop over winter in emergency admissions for children. This was caused by a reduction in the number of children needing treatment for chest infections and other respiratory illnesses which are often caused by flu. This reduction was seen in all children but was particularly dramatic in children aged between 2 and 9 years - the group of children who are eligible for the vaccination. This just shows the impact that having the flu vaccination can have.”

Currently the vaccine is available free on the NHS for eligible children, including:

• Children aged two and three on 31 August, 2018 – that is, children born between 1 September, 2014 and 31 August, 2016
• All Primary School children
• Children aged 2 to 17 with long-term health conditions i.e. diabetes or asthma

If your child is aged two or three, please contact your GP to book your appointment and if your child is aged between four and nine, please ensure you sign the consent form which will be sent to you from school. Those with asthma or long term condition should automatically be contacted by GP.

If you want more information about when and how your child will be vaccinated against flu, talk to the GP, practice nurse or your child's school nurse. Information can also be found online at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/child-flu-vaccine/