Birmingham toddlers to be offered new flu vaccine

By on 11/10/2013 in Cllr Bedser, News
flu nasal spray poster

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Healthy two and three year old children across Birmingham are being offered a nasal flu vaccine for the first time this year.

The move, which marks the first step in an extension to the national flu vaccination programme that will eventually include yearly vaccination of all 2-16 year olds, comes as a study published this week by Public Health England (PHE) and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, found children are key ‘spreaders’ of the flu virus.

Children aged two and three will be offered the nasal spray vaccine to protect them against flu, as their close contact with each other means they are more likely to transmit the virus to other more vulnerable groups, including infants and older people.

A national advertising campaign is also being launched today by PHE to encourage parents of two to three year old children, as well as people aged 65 and over, adults and children with long term health conditions and pregnant women, to take up the offer of vaccination.

Birmingham City Council Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Steve Bedser, said: “Flu is not like a cold - it can be a really serious illness for some people and it doesn't just affect older people.

“Flu can knock you off your feet and make it hard to look after the children or go to work. In the most severe cases, seasonal flu might land you in hospital - it can even be a killer. So the simple message for anyone at risk in Birmingham is get your flu jab now.

“If you're in any of the 'at risk' groups, the flu jab is completely free and is a safe way of protecting you and your family in a matter of minutes.”

Director of Public Health, Dr Adrian Phillips, added: “Flu can increase the risk of developing more serious illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia, and can make existing conditions much worse.

“The best time to be vaccinated is at the start of the flu season from September to early November, so it's good to get in early and get flu safe in time for the winter.

“Simply contact your GP to arrange a convenient appointment and get your jab. It's quick, safe and free for those most at risk from the virus.”

Nationally almost 800 people were admitted to intensive care with complications of flu last year and each winter hundreds of thousands of people see their GP and tens of thousands are hospitalised because of flu.

Dr Bharat Sibal, PHE West Midlands consultant and flu specialist, said: “For the majority of people flu is an unpleasant, but not life-threatening illness, however it can be very serious for older people and groups at risk of developing complications including those with weakened immune systems, as well as people with underlying conditions such as neurological disorders, liver, lung or renal disease, heart problems or diabetes, and pregnant women. Vaccination remains the best way to protect against the potential serious harm from flu this winter.”

Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said: “Severe winter flu and its complications can make people really ill and can kill - you are eleven times more likely to die from flu if you are in a clinical at risk group. I urge everyone who is eligible to get the vaccine and help protect themselves and their families this winter.”

“This year we are offering healthy two and three year olds a nasal spray vaccine to not only protect healthy children from flu, but to help to reduce the spread of flu and protect others, including younger brothers and sisters, grandparents and those who are at increased risk of becoming seriously ill from flu.”

For information on how to get your child vaccinated, contact your local GP surgery.

Dr David Geddes, head of Primary Care Commissioning at NHS England, said: “Flu is a nasty illness which can spread easily. This extension to the vaccination programme for children will not only protect more children, it will have a wider health impact in terms of protecting other people who they come into contact with.”

Notes to Editors

  1. Public Health England's first weekly flu report shows current flu activity is low across the UK at the start of the season. PHE will publish a weekly flu report until May 2014, which will detail the flu viruses that are circulating together with information on the levels of influenza illness in the population.
  2. The Government's independent vaccine experts (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation), advises that it wouldn't be effective for the NHS to vaccinate every healthy person against flu. However people can still pay for the flu vaccine at their local pharmacy.
  3. For further information about flu vaccination, including who should have it please visit http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/pages/who-should-have-flu-vaccine.aspx
  4. For information on why health care workers should receive the flu vaccine please visit http://www.nhsemployers.org/HealthyWorkplaces/StaffFluVaccination/Pages/seasonal-flu-campaign.aspx
  5. Public Health England's mission is to protect and improve the nation's health and to address inequalities through working with national and local government, the NHS, industry and the voluntary and community sector. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health. To find out more, visit our website www.gov.uk/phe

For more information contact PHE West Midlands press office on 0121 232 9223/4

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