“It’s important we do what we can to protect children against infections and illnesses like flu, because as we all know, children are very good at spreading germs.”
Those are the words of Meilyr Sion, author of Welsh children’s books and actor in Holby City, Pobl y Cwm and The Lion King stage show, and father to Daniel, aged 9, and Daisy, aged 6.
Meilyr is lending his support to Beat Flu this year as he wants to do everything he can to protect his children from catching or spreading flu, and he also wants to encourage other parents to do the same.
Public Health Wales says it is especially important for children to have the flu vaccine as they are particularly good at passing germs and viruses between themselves and the adults they have contact with due to close proximity and generally poorer hygiene (such as hand washing and sneezing).
Ros Jervis, Director of Public Health for Hywel Dda University Health Board said“Influenza spreads very easily. Extending the programme to more children this year will help protect them from catching flu, and will also prevent them spreading it to others in the community who may be very vulnerable. I particularly call on the parents of 2-3 year old children to get their children vaccinated with the simple nasal spray this year as the statistics show as few as six 2-3 year old children vaccinated prevents one case of flu – this age group has the best opportunity over all others to help stop the spread of flu – they are our ultimate “superprotectors”.
In an extension to the routine flu immunisation programme this year, all primary school aged children in Wales are now being offered the flu vaccine as well as two and three year olds.
The flu vaccine – which is delivered to children as a nasal spray is available to all children who were aged between two and ten on 31 August 2018.
The flu vaccine is the single best way to protect children from flu and also helps stop the virus spreading further.
6 children vaccinated prevents 1 case of flu.
Meilyr continues: “The flu vaccine for children is a simple spray up the nose, so there is no needle – Daniel and Daisy have had it for a few years now and they see it as a normal event each autumn along with their classmates. It’s easy for us as parents too, as all we need to do is complete the consent form and return it to school.”
Flu can affect children severely. Each year in Wales, children and adults are admitted to hospital and intensive care units with flu.
Consultant Paediatrician Dr Sian Owen at the Children’s Centre, Dolgellau, said: “This vaccination is really important. Young children are particularly at risk of serious complications of flu because their immune systems are not yet fully developed so they can’t fight off infections as well as older children and adults can.
“Flu is easily spread within families and in places like nurseries, playgroups and schools, toddlers and children are often in very close proximity to each other where they are especially susceptible to any circulating germs.
“Vaccination can help protect individual children from flu and also help stop it spreading to the wider community.”
For two and three year old children the vaccine will generally be given at their local GP surgery, and for children in reception class and school years one to six, it will be given at their school. Parents/guardians are required to give consent before their child can receive their flu vaccine.
For most healthy children, if they catch flu it means several miserable days at home feeling poorly. However, parents should be aware that flu can sometimes result in serious complications, especially for very young children and those with long term health problems, such as moderate or severe asthma, for whom it can even be life threatening.
Jane Dyson, Immunisation Specialist Nurse at Public Health Wales, is encouraging parents to make sure their child is vaccinated: “As a mum myself, I’m really pleased that the nasal spray flu vaccine for children is being made available to all primary school aged children this year. It represents a big step forward in protecting the most vulnerable in our society.
“Parents – please do not waste this opportunity; give consent for your child to get the vaccine at school. It will help to protect not only their health, but the health of those around them, which often includes people susceptible to the very harmful effects of flu – including grandparents and younger siblings.”