Preparations Underway for Flu Campaign

Preparations are under way for a major campaign against flu which will see 18,000 primary school pupils across Forth Valley being invited for vaccination between September and December this year. The programme is also being extended for children not yet at school, who will be offered vaccination by nasal spray at their local GP practice.

The 2014 campaign involves just under 120 schools in Stirlingshire, Clackmannanshire and Falkirk. The majority of clinics will be held in school at weekends, following a successful pilot last year which saw a 65% uptake. In more rural primaries staff from the local GP practice will administer the vaccine.

Unlike the adult seasonal flu vaccine which is injected, the childhood vaccine, which is suitable for most children, is administered using a quick and painless nasal spray. Fluenz® has been used safely and successfully for years in many countries including the USA. Parents will be informed of the flu session details by letter, which will be issued via schoolbags or through their GP practice.

NHS Forth Valley Consultant in Public Health Medicine and Immunisation Coordinator, Dr Henry Prempeh said: “This nasal vaccine is only for children and offers excellent protection against the types of flu virus which are most likely to be circulating each winter – safeguarding children against a nasty disease which could end up with them having to have treatment in hospital.

“Another benefit is that it reduces the risk of a child with flu passing on the disease to other children and family members. It also cuts down the possibility of parents and carers having to take time off to look after sick youngsters.”

The new childhood flu immunisation programme is an extension of the existing annual flu vaccination programme which targets people over 65, or those under 65 with chronic illnesses which can make flu much more dangerous. These include people with heart disease, chest complaints such as bronchitis, emphysema or asthma, chronic kidney failure, cystic fibrosis, lowered immunity due to disease or treatment, diabetes or liver problems. Pregnant women and unpaid carers are also eligible for vaccination.

Flu is much more than a bad cold. It is a virus which can make even healthy people feel very unwell for a week or more. In the most serious cases it can bring on pneumonia or other infections which can, in extreme cases, result in death.

Children get the same unpleasant flu symptoms as adults. These are far worse than a normal cold and include fever, chills, aching muscles and joints, headache and extreme tiredness. Symptoms can also include a stuffy nose, dry cough and sore throat. Some children have a very high temperature, sometimes without other obvious symptoms, and need to go to hospital for treatment. Complications can include vomiting and diarrhoea, painful middle ear infection, bronchitis and pneumonia and for youngsters with certain medical conditions, getting flu can be very serious as it is likely to make their condition much worse.