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Source: Channel Islands – Jersey

A campaign to protect islanders who are most vulnerable to winter flu gets underway this week.

The annual flu vaccination programme, which launches on Tuesday 1 October, is a joint initiative between Health and Community Services, Social Security, GP surgeries and pharmacists. It aims to protect those most at risk in whom catching flu could cause a severe and complicated illness.

Flu vaccine is available at GP surgeries and Community Pharmacies for all adults aged 65 and over, for people aged 16 to 64 with a serious health condition and for pregnant women. The cost of the flu vaccine for vulnerable groups is subsidised by the Government of Jersey.

For adults aged 65 and over and people aged 16 to 64 with a serious health condition, they will be charged £10 for the flu vaccine. For pregnant women, getting a flu vaccination will be free. Information about who should get protected, where to get the flu vaccine and how much it costs is available at www.gov.je/flu

Ahead of the winter, a nasal flu vaccine, given as a gentle squirt up each nostril, will be offered to all children aged between two and 16 to help keep them flu-free. Young children are vulnerable to catching flu due to their age. They tend to have a more severe illness and they remain infectious for longer. This means they are more likely to transmit flu to others, including vulnerable family members, such as pregnant women and elderly grandparents.

Supplies of the children’s nasal flu vaccine are expected on island within the coming weeks. Schoolchildren in reception years and years 1 to 11 inclusive will be offered the flu nasal vaccine free of charge in schools during the second half of October and during November. At the same time, pre-school children from age 2 to 4 will be able to get the nasal vaccine free of charge via their nursery or GP surgery. Children aged 6 months to under 2 years who have a serious health condition can receive an injectable flu vaccine free of charge at their surgery (the nasal flu vaccine is not licensed for use in those under two years of age).

Dr Linda Diggle, Head of Preventive Programmes, said: “Flu is an unpredictable virus. We never know in advance how mild, moderate or severe the winter months will be for flu infections. Our aim is to vaccinate, ahead of the winter, as many of the vulnerable groups within our community as possible. We would urge pregnant women, people aged 65 or over, and younger adults with a serious health condition to get vaccinated.”

Pregnant women are at risk of serious illness if they catch flu and have an increased risk of premature delivery. Adults aged 65 and over, and younger adults with a serious health condition have a higher risk of developing severe disease or complications, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, if they catch flu.

Serious health conditions include people with:

  • chronic respiratory disease or asthma
  • chronic heart disease
  • chronic kidney disease
  • chronic liver disease
  • chronic neurological disease e.g. Parkinson’s disease or stroke
  • diabetes type 1 or type 2 requiring insulin or oral hypoglycaemic drugs or diet-controlled
  • having a suppressed immune system due to disease or treatment such as chemotherapy
  • asplenia or spleen dysfunction
  • having a BMI of more than 40

Dr Diggle added: “At the beginning of October last year, a small number of people shared their misunderstandings about the nasal flu vaccine on social media. That wasn’t helpful to parents nor to our community. We’ve seen the consequences that sharing fake news about vaccination has had across a number of European countries. Thankfully, it would seem that most parents in Jersey can recognise ‘fake news’ as over 8,500 children got protected with the nasal flu vaccine in 2018. In total, over 27,000 Islanders had a flu vaccine last year”.

“Flu viruses change over time. For those in the vulnerable groups, this means that even if you received a flu vaccine last year, you should have the vaccine again now to get protected against the strains of flu expected to be circulating this winter. Having a flu vaccine is the best protection we have against unpredictable flu viruses.”

MIL OSI United Kingdom