EFFORTS have begun to alert parents to the extension of the flu vaccination campaign, with hundreds of thousands of children being offered the vaccine this winter.
The vaccine - delivered in a nasal spray rather than a jab - will be available to every child aged two to 11 in efforts to reduce illness caused by flu.
Children are two to three times more likely to be ill with flu than adults.
Last winter saw the flu vaccine being offered to two and three-year-olds and a selection of primary school children.
This year approximately 150,000 children aged 2-5 years old and approximately 400,000 primary school children will be offered vaccination to help protect them and reduce the risk of flu being spread to others.
When fully rolled out the seasonal flu vaccine will be offered to all children aged two to 17 in the hope it can prevent an additional 200 deaths a year and up to 1,100 hospitalisations.
Dr Nicola Steedman, the Scottish Government’s Senior Medical Officer, has now launched a national campaign to ensure parents know how the vaccine will be offered.
From the start of August, parents of primary school children should look out for and return the consent form sent home in school bags so that their child can be vaccinated at school.
Parents of children aged two to five should make an appointment with their GP practice from October onwards.
Last winter around 130,000 children in Scotland received the nasal vaccine.
Dr Steedman said: “Flu can be very unpleasant for children, and in some cases it can develop into more serious health complications such as bronchitis, pneumonia and middle ear infection.
“Parents can make sure their child is safeguarded against flu by taking up the offer of this free vaccine.
“It’s safe, quick and painless, and offers protection against the types of virus that are most likely to be circulating this winter.”
Health Secretary Alex Neil added: “The scale of this vaccination programme, once fully implemented, is unprecedented.
“Immunisation is the best way of protecting against serious diseases, and the childhood flu programme is about ensuring more people than ever in Scotland are protected from the flu virus.
“Flu can hit children hard and even healthy children can become seriously ill, which is why we’re offering the flu vaccine to children of this age.
“Not only will it help protect them from flu, it will help stop the virus spreading to others.”
More information about the flu vaccine for children is available atimmunisationscotland.org.uk/childflu or call the NHS inform helpline on 0800 22 44 88.