Flu vaccination offered to primary school children

The Public Health Nursing Team are encouraging parents and guardians of pre-school and school age children to help protect their children before the flu virus starts circulating this winter. The annual flu programme includes all children 2-11 years. It is also offered to children aged 6 months to 17 years in at-risk groups.

All pre-school children who are aged two years or over on 1 September 2017 (i.e. children born between 2 July 2013 and 1 September 2015) will be offered the vaccine at their GP’s surgery along with children in at-risk groups who are not in primary schools.

All primary school children will be offered the vaccine at school by the school nursing service. Letters and consent forms will be distributed to schools over the next few weeks. It is important that consent forms are completed signed and returned as soon as possible before the school programme commences in local schools in October so that your child can be protected with the vaccine.

Susan Gault Head of Service explains school nursing teams will be implementing the Public Health Agency’s childhood flu vaccination programme which was launched in 2014. The School Nursing Team will be visiting approximately 240 primary schools across the Trust during the coming months to offer all children in P1 – P7 the Fluenz Tetra® vaccine (nasal spray). Nearly all children will receive the vaccine via a quick and painless nasal spray. The nasal vaccine has been shown to provide even greater protection for children than the flu injection.

She added: “For medical reasons a very small number of children will not be able to receive Fluenz Tetra® and they will be given a different flu vaccine by injection instead. This will mean that approximately 42,000 pupils will be better protected against flu bringing both health benefits and less time off school.”

She continued: “The Influenza campaign delivered by school nursing teams works extremely well and the uptake across Northern Trust in 2016 was 75%. The 2017 vaccine programme will start on the 9th October 2017 and the aim is to have it finished by the beginning of December 2017 to ensure children are protected before the flu virus starts circulating.”

Dr Lucy Jessop Consultant in Health Protection at the PHA, said: "Last year the vaccine was offered to primary school age children across Northern Ireland and 78% of children were vaccinated, by far the highest uptake in the UK. This was an excellent achievement, demonstrating the skill and commitment of school nursing teams and the commitment of parents to ensuring their children are better protected against this unpleasant and potentially serious infection. If we can achieve a similar uptake this year then this should have a significant impact on the amount of flu that we see. This is a very challenging programme to deliver even in the best circumstances involving offering the vaccine to around 175,000 children in Northern Ireland within a 9 week period.

“The flu virus spreads easily and quickly, infecting both adults and children alike. This can lead to days spent in bed rather than being at school or nursery, with parents having to stay at home to care of sick children and any siblings who catch it. This can cause considerable inconvenience for the whole family; made all the more difficult if one or both of the parents catch flu as well.

“Flu can cause the same unpleasant symptoms in children as it does with adults – fever, chills, aching muscles and joints, headache and extreme tiredness. These symptoms can last between two and seven days and for some can lead to serious illness and result in a stay in hospital. The flu virus spreads through the air when people cough and sneeze without covering their nose and mouth, and because young children don’t always cover their noses or mouths when coughing or sneezing, the virus can spread very quickly among them.

“We encourage parents and guardians of all children in these groups to get their child vaccinated, as children who have the vaccine will be better protected against the flu virus and it will reduce the risk of passing the disease on to other children or family members, some of whom may be at increased risk of being seriously ill from having the flu.”

For more information

Flu aware NI information

Flu vaccination for toddlers and pre-school children

Flu vaccination for children at school and children aged up to 17 years in at-risk groups

Page last updated:21 September 2017