24 October 2018
More than 4,500 primary school children have received protection against flu following the completion of the nasal vaccinations last week. The figures mean that uptake is 60% in primary schools so far (last year, in 2017, it was 59% overall).
Dr Linda Diggle, the Head of Preventive Programmes in Health and Community Services, said: “It’s very good news that the majority of parents made the decision to protect their primary school-age children ahead of the winter.
“The 60% figure is likely to increase as we still have three catch-up clinics to happen. These are held in the out-patients department of the Hospital for children who are home-schooled and for those whose parent consented ‘yes’ but the school-age child was absent on the day we went into their school.”
Nurses from Health and Community Services are in secondary schools this week, and in the week after half term to complete the vaccination programme for older school children up to and including school year 11. It is expected that HCS will have finished schoolchildren’s protection totally by 19th November.
Flu vaccinations in nurseries are ongoing – 48 out of 51 nurseries are taking part with a GP or Practice Nurse delivering the vaccines in nursery to support working parents and make it easier for them to get their child protected without having to take time away from work.
Dr Diggle added: “The nasal flu vaccine offers superior protection to children compared with the injected flu vaccine contrary to what a small number of parents mistakenly believe.
“We have been dismayed at the amount of myths and simply ‘wrong’ information being shared by a small number of people on social media. Healthcare professionals base the care we deliver upon years of evidence that’s been peer reviewed and scrutinised by experts who have spent their lifetimes in specialist fields of immunology and paediatric medicine to co-produce the expert guidance of national bodies, such as that provided to the NHS and ourselves by the expert UK Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. Yet, inaccurate postings, obtained via social media and amplified by social media, have led some parents to fall victim to misinformation.
“It is safe to offer the vaccine in school. I have asked parents why they would think we would do this if it was anything but safe.
"The nasal flu vaccine strengthens a child’s immune system because it stimulates their immune system to make their own antibodies against flu – these antibodies are the good things that then protect the child if they come up against flu infection in the coming winter.
“Most parents in Jersey work and lead busy lives juggling family and work commitments. With the best will in the world, we know some children would miss out on protection if we made it hard to access school-age vaccinations, for example, if parents had to take time off work to get their child somewhere in order to get them vaccinated. There is plenty of evidence from the UK and Europe that shows that children miss out on protection against infectious diseases if accessing services is difficult. It makes every sense for us to do as happens in UK schools – and that’s to make vaccines equally accessible for all school age children via their school.
“Nasal flu vaccinations have been safely given in UK schools since 2013 and millions of children have been protected in that time in the school setting. The nasal flu vaccine is also given in Canada, Finland and the US."
Flu vaccinations from high street pharmacies are proving popular with Islanders with 3643 people having had a flu vaccination since 1 October. This is more than the 3,497 flu vaccines given in pharmacies over the whole of the last season. For those aged 65 and over, supplies of the enhanced flu vaccine injection have been received recently in GP surgeries and pharmacies and more are expected in November.
Dr Diggle added: “We are encouraging those in the vulnerable groups to get protected against flu ahead of the winter. In particular, if you are of working age and you have an underlying medical condition, please get yourself protected.”
Underlying medical conditions includes anyone with:
- chronic (long-term) respiratory disease, such as asthma (which requires an inhaled or tablet steroid treatment, or has led to hospital admission in the past), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
- chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
- chronic kidney disease
- chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
- chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson's disease, motor neurone disease or multiple sclerosis (MS)
- problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed
- a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medication such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
- being seriously overweight (BMI of 40 or above)
Dr Diggle said: “For most healthy people, flu will be unpleasant but they’ll start to feel better within a week. But flu can cause serious illness, complications and even death among vulnerable groups including older people, pregnant women and people with an underlying health condition. They are more likely to develop potentially serious complications of flu, such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
Flu is an unpredictable virus and we just don’t know in advance how mild, moderate or severe the winter months will be for flu infections. Being proactive and preventing yourself from getting flu this winter by getting vaccinated now, in particular by those who know they are vulnerable, is by far the best the thing to do”
Parents who decide they want their school-age child to have the flu vaccine but missed the opportunity in school can take their child to a catch-up clinic. To find out timings of clinics, they can contact the Child Health team on 01534 443741.