GPs are urging parents in Horsham and Mid Sussex to protect their children against the flu, by taking advantage of a free flu vaccine.
This year the vaccine is being offered to children aged two, three and four, who are all eligible for the flu vaccination on the NHS.
The child-friendly nasal spray means children can avoid having an injection and instead have a quick, painless, squirt into each nostril.
A spokesperson confirmed that only 1,951 out of 7,535 eligible two, three and four-year-old children have been vaccinated so far in Horsham and Mid Sussex. And only 7,082 out of 29,302 in West Sussex.
Dr Deborah Allen, NHS Horsham and Mid Sussex CCG clinical lead for Children and Maternity and local GP, said: “Flu is highly contagious and even though a healthy child is unlikely to develop a serious illness they could pass on the virus to other members of the family such as siblings or grandparents who are more vulnerable.
“So if children are vaccinated against flu they will not only benefit directly by being protected themselves, they will also reduce the spread of flu and help protect our wider Horsham and Mid Sussex communities.”
“While there are a number of young children in Horsham and Mid Sussex who are already protected against flu, we need to do a lot more. I would urge parents and carers of unvaccinated children to make an appointment with their GP, call in to see their local pharmacist, or complete the consent form so your child can have the vaccine at school.”
Flu can be a very unpleasant illness in children causing fever, stuffy nose dry cough, sore throat, aching muscles and joints and extreme tiredness.
This can often last several days and some children can get a very high fever, sometimes without the usual flu symptoms, and may need to go to hospital for treatment, a spokesperson said.
Serious complications of flu include a painful ear infection, acute bronchitis and pneumonia.
Christine Field, West Sussex County Council (WSCC) cabinet member for community wellbeing, said: “I would encourage parents with children between the ages of two and four to get the flu vaccination for your child.
“It’s free and will protect them from getting very poorly over the festive season.
“If you haven’t already, I would really recommend speaking to your local GP or pharmacist today.”
Dr Max Kammerling, head of the public health screening and immunisation team for Surrey and Sussex, said children can become ‘very poorly if they catch flu and it impacts on the wider family, as parents/carers may have to take time of work to look after them’.
He added: “The nasal spray contains viruses that have been weakened to prevent them from causing flu but will help children to build up immunity.”
Have you checked out our new Christmas section yet?
It’s packed with ideas and tips to ensure you make the most out of the festive season.
There’s recipes, suggestions for presents and everything from choosing your tree to recycling your packaging and paper.