About six in ten primary school children and 56 per cent of nursery aged children have already received the vaccine after the Health Department launched a ‘comprehensive’ immunisation programme to try to cut the number of flu cases this season.
However, Dr Linda Diggle, the department’s head of preventive programmes, has urged parents whose child is aged between two and 11 and who has not yet been vaccinated to contact their GP surgery as soon as possible, as the flu season has still not ended.
‘The flu vaccine is the best protection we have, but because flu strains change, vaccination needs to be done every year,’ she said.
‘We are fortunate to have a more comprehensive flu vaccination programme than in England, but each year the benefits for our community will only ever be realised if a high proportion of the groups who are eligible for vaccination take up the offer.
‘In particular, we know that when children are protected against flu, they can’t spread it to their families, carers and others within the community.’
The newly delivered nasal vaccine has an expiry date of 29 January and there will be no further vaccine available after this date.
As reported on Thursday, 24,000 Islanders have been vaccinated against flu this season.
For the first time medical staff went into the Island’s 41 nurseries to administer the nasal spray to more than 900 children.
Meanwhile, the age group of children eligible to receive the vaccine was also broadened to include youngsters aged between two and 11. Previously, only those aged up to nine years received the immunisation.
The latest figures show that almost 4,500 primary pupils have received the vaccination so far compared with 2,500 last year.
Dr Ivan Muscat, consultant in communicable disease control, who leads the Island’s efforts to keep flu infection under control, also called on Islanders, particularly those aged 65 and over, pregnant women and those with long-term medical conditions to be vaccinated at their GP surgery or local pharmacy.
‘The flu season isn’t over and I would strongly encourage people who have not yet been vaccinated to get vaccinated and to continue to maintain good respiratory, hand and general hygiene,’ he said.