20 December 2017
Early indications show that more vulnerable Islanders have been vaccinated against flu already this winter (compared to 2016/17), and that the option for adults to have a flu vaccination at their local pharmacy has proved popular.
Doctors are urging anyone who still wants to be protected against flu to get the vaccination as soon as possible, whilst vaccine stocks are still available.
Young children, pregnant women, people with a long-term medical condition and anyone aged 65 or over are most at risk of having complications, or of being hospitalised, if they catch flu. Young children are two to three times more likely to catch flu compared to adults, with symptoms likely to be more severe and more prolonged. Children under five are more likely to be admitted to hospital with flu than any other age group.
This year, in Jersey, there has been a large increase in the numbers of 2-, 3- and 4-year-old children protected against flu – 55% compared with 32% in 2016/17. GPs went into nurseries during October in an effort to make it easier and more convenient for working parents to protect their child. Over 900 children received the nasal spray protection against flu in the nursery setting, with GPs or Practice Nurses visiting 46 nurseries. A further 300 children received flu protection at their GP surgery. In primary schools, almost 4,500 children were protected against flu during November, compared to 2,500 children last year.
Dr Linda Diggle, Head of Preventive Programmes said “By so many parents protecting their young children against flu, they have helped protect themselves, their family and the community. Children are the ‘super-spreaders’ of flu. This won’t be a surprise to most parents and grandparents who will already be aware of just how easily young children spread infections to each other and amongst family members. So, by vaccinating their child against flu, parents have protected their child but that also means their child can’t pass flu onto others, such as adult relatives and carers. In turn, that should mean fewer adults getting flu overall. Protecting young children is good for them and for everyone.”
As of the first week of December, amongst people aged 65 or over, uptake of the flu vaccination had reached 58% (up from 50% last winter). For adults with long-term medical conditions, 33% have been vaccinated so far (up from 24% last year).
Pharmacy option for vaccination
This October, for the first time, adults were able to visit a pharmacy to get the flu vaccination, with no appointment necessary. As of the beginning of December, over 2,300 adults had visited a local pharmacy to get a flu vaccination, with most citing convenience as their main reason for attending.
Dr Ivan Muscat, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control, who leads the Island’s efforts to keep flu infection under control, said “True influenza hasn’t ‘bitten’ us yet. The festive season with travel, family/social gatherings and the subsequent return to school is generally associated with the introduction of flu. Vaccination remains our best protection against flu and whilst there are still vaccine doses available, anyone wanting to be protected should act now and visit their doctor or local pharmacy before flu arrives.
“We cannot accurately predict whether we are going to be hit hard with flu or not this winter, but the higher than usual seasonal activity in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere suggests that we may well see more influenza than in recent years, further strengthening the argument for vaccination.”
Read more flu information