More than two million Scots are being urged to take up the offer of a free flu vacination this winter.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended target is for 75 per cent of eligible patients in each country to receive the jab.
The flu vaccine offers the best defence against the most common strains of the virus circulating this year and has an excellent safety recordMaureen Watt, public health minister
In each of the past four years, 76 per cent of Scots in line for the vaccination have taken it.
Around 500 people have died each winter in the past five years from either flu or conditions related to it.
The free vaccination is offered to people with underlying health conditions, those who are pregnant or are older than 65, as flu can lead to serious complications which may need hospital treatment.
The Scottish Government is this year targeting all parents of children aged between two and five to have them vaccinated.
Over 550,000 children aged between two and 11-years-old will be offered the nasal spray vaccination, following the extension of the flu vaccination programme in 2014. Children aged 5-11 will be vaccinated at school, with those aged 2-5 offered the vaccination at their GP practice.
Children aged 2-11 years are being offered a nasal spray vaccine whilst adults will be given an injection to help protect them from flu.
Public health minister Maureen Watt, who is eligible for the vaccine as she has asthma, said: “I will be getting the vaccine this year, as I have every year, as I have asthma and know that getting flu could have a serious impact on my health. I’d rather make sure I’m covered and not have to worry about the consequences.
“The flu vaccine offers the best defence against the most common strains of the virus circulating this year and has an excellent safety record. It takes ten to 14 days to work so I urge eligible groups to make an appointment with your GP practice today.
“This year will see us targeting all parents of children aged 2-5 to encourage them to make an appointment with their GP if they want their child vaccinated, and we’re hoping this will lead to more people being vaccinated than ever before.”
Dr Nicola Steedman, acting deputy chief medical officer for the Scottish Government, said: “The flu virus can make even healthy people very unwell. It’s best to get the flu vaccine as soon as possible, before lots of viruses start circulating, and it will offer protection for a year.
“It is important to protect youngsters from the dangers of flu and reduce the risk of flu being spread to others, so I am delighted that so many Scottish parents have consented to their child being vaccinated against flu.
“By taking up the free flu vaccine you can ensure that you and your family are taking important steps to avoid catching flu. Even if you or your child were immunised against flu last year it is important to receive the vaccine again this year, as the viruses can change over time.”