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6 September 2014, 09:16
Children in Suffolk are being given the chance to get flu vaccinations in school for the first time.
Students in Years 7 and 8 are being offered a flu vaccination, as part of a county wide pilot scheme to try and reduce the spread of illness ahead of winter.
Each child will be offered the flu vaccine as a nasal spray, instead of having an injection. It's painless and side effects are uncommon.
It follows on from a series of pilot vaccination programmes that were successfully carried out last year in primary schools in several regions around the country. Letters and information leaflets have been sent to parents explaining the programme in detail as well as answers to some commonly asked questions about flu and the vaccination.
Only 10% of children aged 2 to 16 years old were vaccinated for flu last year, out of 116,623 registered patients in Suffolk.
Councillor Alan Murray, cabinet member for health and adult care said: "This vaccination programme is designed to protect children against flu which can be an unpleasant illness and, although rarely, can sometimes cause serious complications. Additionally, by having the flu vaccination, children are less likely to pass the virus on to friends and family, some of whom may be at greater risk from flu if they are an infant, an older person or someone with an underlying health condition."
"I would urge all parents to return their consent forms to their child's school as soon as possible to help reduce the spread of flu this winter"
Dr Paul Cosford, Director for Health Protection and Medical Director at Public Health England, said: "The pilots are an important addition to the national programme and are being carefully planned for the second year running. They are helping us to understand the best way to implement the programme nationally, ensuring that we can set up a successful and sustainable programme, vaccinating children and young people to protect them and the wider population.
"It's important that children take up the offer of a vaccination if offered to them later in the year. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people may see their GP and tens of thousands may be hospitalised because of flu each winter."
From the last week of September, specially trained healthcare staff will be administering the nasal spray on designated school vaccination days.
Although safe, the vaccine might be unsuitable for certain children.
Children shouldn't have the nasal vaccine if they:
are currently wheezy or have been wheezy in the past week (vaccination should be delayed until at least seven days after the wheezing has stopped)
are severely asthmatic, i.e. being treated with oral steroids or high dose inhaled steroids
are allergic to eggs or any part of the Fluenz vaccine
have a condition that severely weakens their immune system.