With small children acting as ‘super spreaders’ of flu, becoming very ill themselves and passing it on to their families and the wider community, the nasal flu vaccination is the best way of stopping the deadly virus in its tracks.
And to make it as easy as possible for busy parents to get their little ones protected, the Fluathon is happening this Saturday (October 27)
All parents and guardians have to do is check their local surgery is taking part and then drop in for the vaccination. And even if their GP is not part of the Fluathon, they can book to have the spray at another time. The vaccination is completely free
Many practices are pulling out all the stops to make the day as fun as possible for the kids. For example New Islington Medical Practice, Manchester, will have a party atmosphere with children’s entertainers, and Pennygate Medical Centre, Wigan, will be decked out with spooky Halloween decorations.
Vaccination rates in Greater Manchester during the last flu season were better than in previous years – 44 per cent of two-year-olds and 46 per cent of three-year-olds received the spray.
However, there is still room for improvement. Health bosses have introduced initiatives like the Fluathon to better last year’s figures and protect even more people from serious illness.
Flu can lead to some children developing a very high fever as well as further complications such as severe chest infections, pneumonia and painful ear infections. Healthy children under the age of five are more likely than any other age group to be admitted to hospital with flu.
Christine Khiroya, Nurse Consultant Screening and Immunisation at Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “Flu can be extremely serious and is particularly unpleasant for small children.
“Flu in toddlers is obviously horrible for them, but people may not realise small children act as ‘super-spreaders’ for the virus too. Young children touch everything and tend not to use tissues properly, so the chances of them passing flu on are very high.
“Vaccinating your child against flu is safe and the best way we have of protecting them and the rest of the family.”
Dr Anirban Maitra, Consultant Respiratory Paediatrician at the Manchester University Foundation Trust, said: “Some people wrongly see flu as trivial, it isn’t. I see countless children affected by flu each year and it can present serious risks.
“I’d ask everyone with a toddler to get them vaccinated, unless there’s a compelling reason not to. It’s quick and easy and you could avoid having a poorly child, having to take time off work or even a visit to hospital.
“Flu can be much more dangerous for children than people realise and they tend to spread it around their whole family.
“Vaccinating young children with a simple nasal spray can keep them fit and well throughout the winter months and is the key to stopping the virus spreading further and faster.”
Sarah Gray Pennygate Medical Centre practice manager, said: “The vaccination really isn’t scary – though I can’t say the same for our practice as we’ll be embracing Halloween on Saturday as a treat for all the youngsters.
“It’s very important that as many two and three year olds as possible are vaccinated – it benefits all of us.
“So if you’re a parent or guardian of a little monster please visit your local GPs on Saturday – and if you can’t get there this weekend make an appointment.”
Older children in reception class and school years 1-5 will be offered their vaccination in school.