This year 2 and 3 year olds and pupils in school year 7 to be targeted as well as individuals most at risk of serious complications of flu.
The annual flu immunisation programme is underway in Wales.
The programme aims to ensure that the people who need it most get free protection each year against the flu. This includes everyone aged 65 and over, people with certain long term health conditions and pregnant women.
This year for the first time a flu nasal spray vaccine is being offered to children who were two or three years old on 1 September and school year 7 pupils. The younger children will have the spray in their GP practice and Year 7 children will receive their nasal spray vaccine in school.
Dr Richard Roberts, Head of Vaccine Preventable Disease Programme in Public Health Wales, said, “Flu can be serious for people of any age. Flu can’t usually be treated but it can be largely prevented though one simple vaccination. So it’s important that you beat flu before it beats you.
“Not many people realise that children also catch flu. About one in 10 get flu each winter. This year some children are being offered a nasal spray vaccine against flu. This is not an injection but a spray given up the nose.”
“Every year people die from flu and its complications. The flu vaccine is safe, effective, and free for those who are at risk. It can help protect people who are most vulnerable to serious complications of flu.”
Last year (2012-13) in Wales, 67.7% of people aged 65 and over and 49.7% of people under 65 in ‘at risk’ groups were immunised. Dr Roberts said “Many people 65 and over or in at risk groups get their free flu vaccination every year. I urge those who don’t usually have the vaccine to go to their GP to get their free flu vaccination before flu starts to circulate again.”
Each year the flu vaccine is changed to match any new circulating strains of the flu virus. Most free NHS flu vaccines are given in GP surgeries, but are also available in some community pharmacies.
Influenza is a respiratory illness caused by a virus that affects the lungs and airways. Symptoms generally come on suddenly, and can include fever, chills, headache, cough, body aches and fatigue.
The flu virus is spread via droplets which are sprayed into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Direct contact with contaminated hands or surfaces can also spread infection. It can spread rapidly, especially in closed communities such as hospitals, residential homes and schools.
Public Health Wales carries out influenza surveillance throughout the flu season. Data is collected routinely from GP surgeries for weekly reports which are available for both health professionals and the public.