Flu season is just around the corner, and now is the time to get protected. If you are a parent of eligible pre-schoolers, make sure that you book your child in with their GP practice for the nasal spray that protects against flu.
The flu vaccine is also offered to most children including all aged 2 and 3 years old and school aged children from reception to year 11, as well as those with underlying health conditions. The children’s flu vaccine is usually given as a quick and painless spray up the nose. Children should get the flu vaccine as soon as they can for their protection and to help stop the virus spreading to others.
Flu can be an unpleasant illness in children, causing fever, extreme tiredness, aching muscles and joints, stuffy nose, dry cough, and sore throat. Most children recover within a week and are well enough to go back to nursery or school, but for some it can be life-threatening.
Children aged 6 months to 2 years with a long-term health condition that increases flu risk are eligible, including those ever admitted overnight for a lung infection, and those with conditions like diabetes. These children will be offered a flu vaccine injection instead of the nasal spray. This is because the nasal spray is not licensed for children aged under 2 years.
Primary and secondary school students can also get the nasal spray vaccine at school – make sure you sign the consent form. A vaccination session will be held at schools during the autumn term and the immunisation team will contact you via the school. For 2- and 3-year-olds, you should receive an invitation for your child to have it at their GP surgery. Parents can also contact them directly to book an appointment.
Kate Keeling, Head of Immunisation at NHS Norfolk and Waveney said:
“We are urging parents and carers to ensure their child is vaccinated ahead of winter. We know that vaccinations are the best form of protection at winter. The child flu vaccine reduces your child’s chance of needing hospital care for flu by around two-thirds.
“The child flu vaccine is usually given as a quick and painless spray up the nose and helps protect them from flu and prevent it spreading among vulnerable family and friends.
“If your child is aged 2 or 3 years old or are aged 6 months to 2 years with certain health conditions, you can book a flu vaccination at their GP practice. This is a reminder to please book your child’s flu vaccine as soon as the vaccine becomes available.”
Here are five reasons your under-5s should have the flu vaccine:
1. Protect your child
Children under 5 have the highest hospitalisation rate due to flu – 6,000 in England last winter. Vaccination cuts the hospitalisation risk by around two-thirds. It helps protect against complications like pneumonia and painful ear infections.
2. Protect family and friends
Pre-schoolers are excellent at spreading germs! Vaccinating your child helps reduce the chance of others in your family who are higher risk, like grandparents or those with long-term conditions, getting flu.
3. No needles!
The nasal spray is painless and easy to have. It contains weakened flu viruses to help your child build immunity and fight off flu. The vaccine is absorbed into the nose quickly, so even if your child sneezes right after, it still works. For children who can’t have the nasal spray for medical reasons, an injection is available
4. It’s better than having flu
The nasal spray helps protect against flu, has been given to millions of children in the UK and worldwide, and has an excellent safety record. In the last few years, the protection that children get from vaccination has been consistently higher than for adults. The vaccine is updated yearly to match flu strains, so we recommend vaccinating yearly, even if vaccinated last year.
5. Avoid costs and time off work
Juggling a sick child and work is tough. Vaccinating isn’t just about your child’s health, it’s smart for parents. If your child gets flu, you may have to take time off or find childcare. The nasal spray vaccine means fewer missed workdays and is free on the NHS.
Get your family winter strong by booking in eligible under-5s with your GP practice or making sure you sign a consent form if one is sent home from school.
COVID-19 vaccinations are also taking place and there are some local sites who are offering slots this weekend:
Local vaccinations taking place:
Wellness Hub, Castle Quarter, Norwich: Saturday 21 October and selected dates from 23 October
James Paget Hospital, Great Yarmouth: This weekend Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 October
Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Kings Lynn: 23 October – all week
These sites are all available to book via National Booking System or calling 119.
You can find out the latest information about both vaccines and how to book by visiting www.nhs.uk/seasonalvaccinations. Protect yourself this winter. Get your flu and COVID-19 vaccinations. Get winter strong.