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Parents urged to act on invitation for child’s free flu vaccination

Health leaders across Pennine Lancashire are urging parents to act when they receive an invitation from school or their GP about their child’s free flu vaccination.

This year the free immunisation has been extended and is being offered to children aged two, three and four, all primary school children and all secondary school children. The move will help protect a larger number of children across Pennine Lancashire and help provide protection to schools, friends, family, and the wider population from the flu virus.

Dr Aliya Bhat, a GP and clinical lead for children at NHS Blackburn with Darwen and NHS East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), said: “Autumn is here and as coughs and colds are already starting to spread this means flu season isn’t far behind.

“Children aged two, three and four are more vulnerable and can be hit hard by flu. In addition, they spread infections easily. They’re not bothered about covering their mouth when they cough, sneeze, or keeping their hands clean. And if they’re around family members of friends that are over 65 or who have a health condition, they’re putting them at risk too.”

Dr Chris Gardner, a Consultant Paediatrician at Royal Blackburn Hospital, said: “Whilst I’d really like to extend my thanks once more to all the families out there who usually take the time to vaccinate themselves and their children against flu, this year with the added threat of Covid-19 still in circulation, I really need to urge everyone to once again take this free opportunity to protect themselves from what can be a really serious and sometimes fatal virus.

“Children under five are the most likely to be admitted to hospital with flu complications and it tends to be the sickest and most vulnerable children who are the hardest hit, although healthy children can be seriously affected as well. By vaccinating your child, you have not only protected them but the more vulnerable ones in school and your local community.”

The vaccination for children is very quick and easy; it is given by squirting a single dose of nasal spray up each nostril. The nasal vaccine is offered to children as it is more effective than the injected vaccine, as well as being easy and painless. However this year, for those who may not accept the use of porcine gelatine in medical products, an alternative injectable vaccine is available.

Some parents may be concerned about safety and don’t see the need for the vaccine if their child is well, often not even giving it a second thought. The vaccine however which is safe and painless will help protect those more vulnerable to the flu virus such as grandparents, who the child could come into contact with.

It’s vital that children get vaccinated every year, vaccines are not for life and just as the virus changes each year so does the vaccine - it will protect your child and potentially those they come into contact with.

Councillor Damian Talbot, Executive Member for Health and Adult Social Care at Blackburn with Borough Council, said: “This year, more than ever, it’s really important to get a free flu vaccination if you are in one of the ‘at risk’ categories. Winter will pose some serious difficulties alongside the coronavirus pandemic and so you will be helping to protect your families, colleagues and the most vulnerable members of the community at a time when we must do all we can.”

If your child is aged two or three, you should receive an invitation from your GP practice to attend a clinic. If your child is at primary or secondary school, please ensure you sign the consent form which will be sent to you from school. Those with asthma or other long term conditions should automatically be contacted by their GP. Young people with long-term health conditions up to the age of 17 are also eligible to receive a free flu vaccination at their GP practice or local pharmacy.

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/