NHS Lanarkshire is urging parents to have their young children immunised against flu, after last year’s poor take-up.
Figures reveal that almost half of 2-5 year old children (49.7 per cent) living in Lanarkshire didn’t take up the offer of the free flu vaccine in 2014.
For the first time, all parents of pre-school children have been contacted and encouraged to make an appointment with their GP or nurse to get their child vaccinated, in a bid to increase overall vaccine uptake.
More than 150,000 Scottish children aged between 2 –5 years old will be offered the vaccination by the end of 2015.
Children are reckoned to be two to three times more likely to be ill with flu than adults, and the simple nasal spray vaccine, which is quick to administer and pain free, is said to help ensure children are protected and are less likely to spread the dangerous flu virus to others.
The Scottish childhood flu immunisation programme is expected to eventually prevent an additional 200 deaths per year and 1,100 hospitalisations from flu, when eventually fully rolled out to all children.
Dr Nicola Steedman, the Scottish Government’s Senior Medical Officer, said: “Flu can hit children hard, which is why we are appealing to parents to take flu seriously and book an appointment to get their child vaccinated.
“All parents of 2-5 year olds should now have received a letter encouraging them to contact their GP.
“Each year in Scotland thousands of children under 14 are diagnosed with flu and a number of these children will be hospitalised.
“Even healthy children can become seriously ill, especially the very young as they are less likely to have built up any immunity to the flu virus.
“Even if your child was immunised against flu last year, it is important to get the vaccine again this year as the viruses can change over time. I
“’d like to reassure parents that the vaccine has an excellent safety record and was given to more than a quarter of a million children in Scotland last year. ”
There’s more on the flu vaccine at www.immunisationscotland.org.uk/childflu or phone NHS Inform on 0800 22 44 88.