This year the vaccine will be offered to school year primary six as well as children aged two and three years. The vaccine will help protect children against flu and reduce its spread.
School nurses will be administering the flu vaccine to primary six children at schools across Northern Ireland from the beginning of October 2013.
Dr Maureen McCartney, Consultant in Health Protection, PHA said: “Primary six children will be arriving home with a consent form, so make sure you complete it and return it to school. Having the vaccine is the best way to protect your child from the flu.
“The flu virus spreads easily and quickly through the air when people cough and sneeze without covering their nose and mouth, infecting both adults and children alike. Flu can cause the same unpleasant symptoms in children as it does with adults. These symptoms can last between two and seven days and can cause disruption to the whole family, with children missing school and parents having to stay at home to care for sick children.”
Most children will receive the vaccine via a quick and painless nasal spray. The nasal vaccine is being used because it has been shown to provide greater protection for children than the flu injection.
Dr Maureen McCartney continued: “We encourage parents and guardians of primary six children to get their child vaccinated, and protect them against this unpleasant, and sometimes serious, illness. It will also reduce the risk of passing the disease on to other children or family members, some of whom may be at increased risk of being seriously ill from having the flu.”
Primary six children will receive the vaccination at school and two and three year old children will receive the vaccination through their local GP surgery. All at-risk children should continue to receive the flu vaccine as they have done in previous years. For medical reasons a very small number of children will not be able to receive the nasal flu vaccine Fluenz®. They will be offered the usual flu vaccine by injection instead. If unsure, speak to your GP for advice.
The extended flu vaccination programme is being phased in over several years to enable arrangements to be established for full implementation and will eventually cover all children aged between 2 and 16 years.
For more information about the flu vaccine for 2013/14, visit www.fluawareni.info, or speak to your GP/nurse or member of staff within the school nurse team at your local Health and Social Care Trust.