11 October 2017
A campaign to protect Islanders who are most vulnerable to flu has launched this week.
GPs, nurses and pharmacists across the Island will be working hard over the coming months to protect as many people as possible against flu ahead of the winter months.
Young children, pregnant women, people with a long-term medical condition and anyone aged 65 or over are considered most at risk of having complications from catching flu or of being hospitalised due to flu.
In Australia it has been reported that there have been over two-and-a-half times more flu cases than normal, with a particular impact in both young children and the elderly. This has already led to warnings to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) to brace itself for increased cases of flu this winter.
Consultant in Communicable Disease Control, Dr Ivan Muscat, who leads the Island’s efforts to keep the infection under control, said “The experience of the Southern Hemisphere is usually a good barometer for what we may see in our winter, so we should maximise our uptake of flu vaccine amongst both those at-risk and children - it's our best protection against flu. "
Dr Muscat has written to all GPs, pharmacists and practice nurses in the Island urging them to vaccinate as many people as possible in the clinical at-risk groups, as it’s these individuals who are most likely to suffer or require hospital treatment should they catch flu.
He said “It is very important for individuals and for Jersey that everyone in the at-risk groups and all nursery and primary school children take up the offer of flu vaccine this year.”
This year, to make it easier for adults in groups to get protected, flu vaccination is available from local pharmacies as well as GP surgeries. Pregnant women, adults with a long-term medical condition (see list below) and people aged 65 or over can get the vaccine for £10 at their surgery or local pharmacy. Anyone else who wants to be vaccinated can get the vaccine privately via a pharmacy or GP surgery – a private rate will be charged and it’s recommended to check this price in advance.
Children aged two, three or four will be offered a nasal flu vaccine free of charge either via their nursery/pre-school or at their GP surgery. GPs expect to have nasal flu vaccine available from Monday 16 October.
Nasal vaccine spray for children
All primary schoolchildren can get the nasal flu vaccine in school from Monday 30 October, after the half-term holiday, and this too will also be free of charge. Young children are two to three times more likely to catch flu compared to adults. In children, the symptoms of flu are more severe and more prolonged. Those aged under five are more likely to be admitted to hospital with flu than any other age group.
Head of Preventive Programmes, Dr Linda Diggle, who manages local logistics for the flu vaccination programme said “The nasal flu vaccine was first available in the UK in 2013 and since then millions of doses have been given to young children. It’s more expensive than the injection but it protects children very effectively and it’s proven to be safe. As it’s a tiny squirt up each nostril, it’s extremely popular with parents and young children as there’s no needle involved. This popularity means high demand and we can only access limited stock – we get this via the NHS vaccine supply team. We’re able to obtain enough for the GP surgeries to start protecting two, three and four year olds. Then we expect to have sufficient stock to protect primary schoolchildren a few weeks later.”
Dr Diggle added “Getting all the logistics lined up is challenging. GP surgeries will not have sufficient stock to vaccinate children of primary school age so parents should not request this. Instead, they should get the vaccine via their child’s primary school. It’s important we get children protected before the end of November and we’re on target to do that. We’re very grateful to schools and nurseries working with us. Having the nasal vaccine is optional and parents are being asked to complete a consent form to indicate if they want their child protected and return it promptly. The vaccine is licensed from age two, so we’re unable to offer it to younger children. It’s also not licensed for adults.”