A Fife GP has encouraged parents of 2-5 year old children to book an appointment for their child to get vaccinated against flu as the national immunisation programme gets underway.
The call comes as figures reveal that almost half of 2-5 year old children (49.7 per cent) living in Fife didn’t take up the offer of the free flu vaccine in 2014.
For the first time, all parents of pre-school children have been contacted and encouraged to make an appointment with their GP or nurse to get their child vaccinated, in a bid to increase overall vaccine uptake.
Over 150,000 Scottish children aged between 2 – 5 years old will be offered the vaccination by the end of 2015.
Children are two to three times more likely to be ill with flu than adults, and the simple nasal spray vaccine, which is quick to administer and pain free, will help ensure children are protected and are less likely to spread the dangerous flu virus to others.
Three year old Kennadie Greig joined Dr Thompson at Lochgelly Health Centre ahead of being vaccinated this month, to help spread the message.
Dr Thompson said: “We are encouraging patients at our surgery who have 2-5 year old children to phone up and book a vaccination appointment for their child as soon as possible. We want to ensure that as many young children in the region as possible are covered from flu throughout the winter months.
“All GP surgeries in Scotland are now vaccinating 2-5 year olds against flu and this year’s flu vaccine offers the best defence against the dangers of flu. It will not only protect children, but also reduce the risk of flu being spread to those who are more vulnerable.
“The nasal spray for children is painless and only takes a few minutes to be administered. It takes ten to 14 days to work and helps to protect against flu for about a year, so call your GP surgery to book an appointment today.”
The Scottish childhood flu immunisation programme, which involves the vaccine being offered to approximately 550,000 children aged 2-11 years, is expected to eventually prevent an additional 200 deaths per year and 1,100 hospitalisations from flu, when eventually fully rolled out to all children.”
Dr Nicola Steedman, the Scottish Government’s senior medical officer, reinforced the importance of children getting immunised against flu.
She said: “Flu can hit children hard, which is why we are appealing to parents to take flu seriously and book an appointment to get their child vaccinated. All parents of 2-5 year olds should now have received a letter encouraging them to contact their GP.
“Each year in Scotland thousands of children under 14 are diagnosed with flu and a number of these children will be hospitalised. Even healthy children can become seriously ill, especially the very young as they are less likely to have built up any immunity to the flu virus.
“Even if your child was immunised against flu last year, it is important to get the vaccine again this year as the viruses can change over time. I’d like to reassure parents that the vaccine has an excellent safety record and was given to more than a quarter of a million children in Scotland last year. ”
Find out more about the flu vaccine for children at www.immunisationscotland.org.uk/childflu or phone NHS Inform on 0800 22 44 88.