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Protect your family from flu

BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY: Mabinty Esho with her son

PUBLIC HEALTH England (PHE) is encouraging parents and carers to help protect the three million eligible children from flu this winter.

This year, the vaccine, administered in the form of a nasal spray, is being offered to two and three-year-olds, those in school years, 1, 2, 3 and for the first time, children in year 4. Children in reception will also be eligible to have their vaccine in school this year.

New data published in August of this year showed that last year’s flu vaccine nasal spray reduced the risk of flu in vaccinated children by 65 per cent across the UK last winter, meaning 65 children in every 100 were protected from flu.

Flu can be a very serious illness for children. They have the same symptoms as adults – including fever, chills, aching muscles, headaches and a sore throat. Some children also develop a high fever and complications such as pneumonia and bronchitis, which may require treatment in hospital.

Dr Paul Cosford, medical director for Public Health England, said: “Young children’s bodies can find it hard to cope with flu, so it is especially important to protect them with the vaccine. The nasal spray is a quick, effective and painless alternative to needles.

“Once ill, children also tend to spread infection more to other vulnerable family members, such as grandparents, so protecting them is a good way to protect the rest of the family.

“I urge all parents whose children are eligible for the free nasal spray not to put it off. It’s free because your family needs it.”

Whilst seasonal flu can be an unpredictable virus, the vaccine is the best form of protection against flu. Vaccinating those who are most likely to suffer the worst also offers a protective effect for the rest of the population by reducing the overall spread of the virus.

The free flu vaccine is also available for pregnant women. Research shows that under half (48 per cent) of pregnant women got their jab last year. Pregnancy naturally weakens the body’s immune system, and as a result it can cause serious complications for both mother and her unborn baby.

Mabinty Esho, a mother of a young son, said: “I had the flu jab when I was pregnant. I think it’s better to be safe than sorry and wanted to protect myself and my baby against the flu. I felt perfectly well after having the flu vaccine.

“My son will be two soon and has been offered the free nasal spray, I will be making sure he gets vaccinated so that he is protected.”

Dede Efueye, midwife at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “As a midwife, I’ve seen first-hand the serious complications flu can cause for pregnant women and their babies. The safest way to help protect them both is the flu vaccine.”

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