Public Health England is urging parents and guardians to take up the offer of a free childhood flu vaccination in school this year.
Every winter, around September parents will be asked to sign or electronically complete a consent form allowing their child to be vaccinated against flu.
– 63 percent of school aged children take up the flu vaccine
– Flu vaccine is offered in the school setting from Reception to Year 5
– Flu vaccine is free and is given as a simple nasal spray – no more injections
– Flu vaccine uptake rates for schools by local authority available at the end of the release
– Children are often called ‘super spreaders’ and, even with the best intentions, children frequently forget to wash their hands or to cover their mouths and noses when they sneeze or cough.
Vaccinating the school population helps to protect siblings, parents, grandparents and other vulnerable people and reduces the impact of flu on the rest of the wider community
Dr Julie Yates, Head of Screening and Immunisation at PHE South West said, “We know that the flu vaccine is very effective in children. Last year, for example, it provided 90% protection against one of the strains of flu.
“Most parents are taking up the offer of a flu vaccine for their children. Last year, 63% of school aged children had the vaccine in the South West, but we can do better.
“Flu is a really nasty bug and it is not like having a cold. It can have serious complications and can be life threatening. At the very least it can knock you off your feet for days.
“This means absence from school for children and time off work for parents, not to mention the possibility of spreading the bug in families especially in the older more vulnerable community.
“Evidence from a number of pilot schemes in primary schools across England in 2014 to 2015 showed 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.
“If your child is in Reception, Year one, Year two, Year three, Year four or Year five they will be offered a free flu vaccination at the school.
“The vaccine for children is no longer an injection; it is a simple nasal spray that takes a few seconds to administer.
“It is important to be aware that your child will miss out on the flu vaccination if the school health team do not have consent before the session.
“If more children are vaccinated, we know this will help us all and could significantly reduce the number of people getting flu in the wider community.”
Julie adds, “Some schools across the South West are trialling electronic consent so please go online and complete this where it is happening.
“In other areas, a paper consent form or letter will be sent home, so please check those book bags and rucksacks for the letters and get the consent form signed and back to school in time for your child to be protected.
“It is important to be aware that the vaccine is also available for children aged 2 and 3 years through your GP.
“It is equally important to get these young children vaccinated so if you have children in these age groups contact your GP surgery to make an appointment.”
For more information on the vaccine visit the flu pages on the NHS choices website at www.nhs.uk/child-flu