More than two million people in Scotland will be offered the flu vaccination.
Children and adults who are getting vaccinated against flu this autumn, today joined the Public Health Minister to declare that they're 'Ready for Flu' at the launch of the national flu immunisation programme.
Over two million people in Scotland will be offered the vaccine, and for the first time, all parents of pre-school children will be contacted and encouraged to make an appointment with their GP to get their child vaccinated in a bid to increase overall vaccine uptake.
Public Health Minister Maureen Watt joined a two-year-old, a group of primary school children, a man with diabetes and a fit and active woman with asthma to highlight those who are eligible as part of Scotland's largest vaccination programme.
The free vaccination will be offered to people with underlying health conditions, those who are pregnant or are older than 65, as flu can lead to serious complications which may need hospital treatment.
Over 550,000 children aged between 2-11 years old will be offered the nasal spray vaccination, following the extension of the flu vaccination programme in 2014. Children aged 5-11 will be vaccinated at school, with those aged 2-5 offered the vaccination at their GP practice.
As part of a national awareness campaign, healthcare workers will also be urged to get the vaccine to help protect themselves, their families, and patients who are potentially vulnerable to flu.
Ms Watt, who is eligible for the vaccine as she has asthma, said:
"As the national flu immunisation programme gets underway, I want to encourage all those who are eligible to join with us in being ready for flu.
"I will be getting the vaccine this year, as I have every year, as I have asthma and know that getting flu could have a serious impact on my health. I'd rather make sure I'm covered and not have to worry about the consequences.
"The flu vaccine offers the best defence against the most common strains of the virus circulating this year and has an excellent safety record. It takes ten to 14 days to work so I urge eligible groups to make an appointment with your GP practice today.
"This year will see us targeting all parents of children aged 2-5 to encourage them to make an appointment with their GP if they want their child vaccinated, and we're hoping this will lead to more people being vaccinated than ever before."
Dr Nicola Steedman, Acting Deputy Chief Medical Officer for the Scottish Government, added:
"Over the last five years around 500 deaths have occurred each winter which can be attributable, or related to, flu. The flu virus can make even healthy people very unwell. It's best to get the flu vaccine as soon as possible, before lots of viruses start circulating, and it will offer protection for a year.
"It is important to protect youngsters from the dangers of flu and reduce the risk of flu being spread to others, so I am delighted that so many Scottish parents have consented to their child being vaccinated against flu. Children aged 2-11 years are being offered a nasal spray vaccine whilst adults will be given an injection to help protect them from flu.
"By taking up the free flu vaccine you can ensure that you and your family are taking important steps to avoid catching flu. Even if you or your child were immunised against flu last year it is important to receive the vaccine again this year, as the viruses can change over time."
To find out more about the flu immunisation programme visit www.immunisationscotland.org.uk/flu or call NHS inform on 0800 22 44 88.
The following groups are eligible for the flu vaccine:
- Those aged 65 years of age and over
- Those with a medical condition which puts them in an 'at risk' group such as asthma, diabetes , cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, heart and lung diseases, or autoimmune disorders.
- NHS Scotland workers are encouraged to get the vaccine to help protect themselves, their families, their colleagues, and patients who are potentially vulnerable to flu.
- Unpaid carers
- Pregnant women (including those with at risk conditions)
- Children aged 2-11 years old. 2-5 year olds and not yet in school will be vaccinated at their GP practice. 5-11 year olds will be vaccinated at school during the autumn term.
Children aged 2-11 years old will be offered a nasal spray vaccine while adults will be given an injection to help protect them from flu.
Public facing healthcare professionals and all other NHS staff are also being urged to get the seasonal flu vaccine to ensure that they are protected and stop the spread of flu to vulnerable patients.