23 September 2014
Pre-school children and pupils in school reception classes are to be given protection against winter flu using a nasal spray vaccine.
The nasal vaccine, which is gently squirted up each nostril, has been used for all children in the United States for more than a decade, replacing the traditional injected vaccine given to children.
If the nasal vaccine programme in Jersey, which will begin in October, is well received locally, the Health and Social Services Department hopes to extend the availability of the flu nasal spray in future years to protect other age groups of children against this seasonal illness.
Head of Healthcare Programmes Dr Linda Diggle, who is managing the new programme, said “We’re really excited that we can now offer this vaccine to young children in Jersey.”
The programme covers:
- pre-school children aged two, three and four years will be able to receive the vaccine free-of-charge at their GP surgery during October and November
- children in school reception classes will be offered the nasal spray in school during October
- for children aged from six months to two years, the injectable flu vaccine will still be offered in surgeries, as the nasal spray cannot be used in children under two years of age
- babies under six months of age are too young to receive any flu vaccine
Information provided in letters to parents
Dr Diggle added “over the next few weeks, parents of pre-school age children aged from six months will receive a letter advising them to contact their GP surgery to arrange for their child to receive a flu vaccine ahead of the winter season.
“Parents of children in school reception classes will also receive information about the nasal spray vaccine and they’ll be asked to return a consent form to the school if they wish their child to be protected against flu. As with all childhood vaccines, uptake by parents is voluntary.”
Dr Mark Jones, Consultant Paediatrician, outlined the potential seriousness of the disease for children, including:
- stuffy nose
- dry cough
- sore throat
- aching muscles and joints
- extreme tiredness
- parents having to take time off work to care for children
- in the worst cases, some children may get a very high fever and develop complications requiring hospital admission such as bronchitis and pneumonia
Dr Jones said “People tend to think of flu as a disease that’s confined to the elderly, but that’s a myth. Each winter we see too many young children coming to the hospital with flu and they are particularly vulnerable if they catch it.
“None of us like giving injections to children, so it’s particularly welcome that we can offer protection through a simple nasal spray. The nasal vaccine is very effective for children and from experience of its use in other countries we know it’s safe.
"There are very few side effects, though we expect some children may experience a runny nose for a short time after having the nasal vaccine. As a paediatrician, I certainly recommend that parents take up this opportunity to protect their children.”