Children and adults in Fife are to be be offered protection from flu as the vaccination programme rolls out at GP surgeries and schools throughout the region.
Over two million people in Scotland will be offered the vaccine, and for the first time, all parents of pre-school children in Fife will be contacted and encouraged to make an appointment with their GP to get their child vaccinated in a bid to increase overall vaccine uptake.
The free vaccination will be offered to people in Fife with underlying health conditions, those who are pregnant or are older than 65, as flu can lead to serious complications which may need hospital treatment.
Over 550,000 Scottish children aged between 2-11 years old will be offered the nasal spray vaccination, following the extension of the flu vaccination programme in 2014.
Children aged 5-11 will be vaccinated at school, with those aged 2-5 offered the vaccination at their GP practice.
As part of a national awareness campaign, healthcare workers across Fife will also be urged to get the vaccine to help protect themselves, their families, and patients who are potentially vulnerable to flu.
Ms Maureen Watt, public health minister, who is eligible for the vaccine as she has asthma, said: “As the national flu immunisation programme gets underway, I want to encourage all those who are eligible to join with us in being ready for flu.
“I will be getting the vaccine this year, as I have every year, as I have asthma and know that getting flu could have a serious impact on my health.
“The flu vaccine offers the best defence against the most common strains of the virus circulating this year and has an excellent safety record. It takes ten to 14 days to work so I urge eligible groups to make an appointment with your GP practice today.
“This year will see us targeting all parents of children aged 2-5 to encourage them to make an appointment with their GP if they want their child vaccinated, and we’re hoping this will lead to more people being vaccinated than ever before.”
Dr Nicola Steedman, acting deputy chief medical officer for the Scottish Government, added: “Over the last five years around 500 deaths have occurred each winter which can be attributable, or related to, flu.
“The flu virus can make even healthy people very unwell. It’s best to get the flu vaccine as soon as possible, before lots of viruses start circulating, and it will offer protection for a year.
“It is important to protect youngsters from the dangers of flu and reduce the risk of flu being spread to others, so I am delighted that so many Scottish parents have consented to their child being vaccinated against flu.
“Children aged 2-11 years are being offered a nasal spray vaccine whilst adults will be given an injection to help protect them from flu.”
She added: “By taking up the free flu vaccine you can ensure that you and your family are taking important steps to avoid catching flu. Even if you or your child were immunised against flu last year it is important to receive the vaccine again this year, as the viruses can change over time.”