A campaign to increase the uptake of the childhood flu vaccination in Blackburn with Darwen has been hailed a success.
More primary schoolchildren in the borough than anywhere in Lancashire have been protected against the dangerous virus, according to the figures for the first two months of the national vaccination programme.
Blackburn with Darwen is also bucking the trend nationally with more pupils taking up the vaccination than the national average.
Parents of two – eight year olds have been praised for protecting their children, family members and the wider community from the virus.
And those who have not yet taken up the vaccination are reminded that it is still not too late.
NHS Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) launched the campaign called “Protect Your Family” in September to urge parents/guardians/carers to vaccinate their children against flu.
Commissioners worked closely with GPs, local councillors, community leaders and schools to spread the message about the importance and benefits of the vaccination.
Insight work was carried out with parents to look at the reasons why they did not give consent for the vaccination. A campaign addressing all the concerns was launched and promoted widely on bus stops, in the media and across digital channels.
Engagement sessions were held throughout the borough including children’s centres, playgroups and play areas to answer parents’ concerns and information leaflets were widely distributed.
Councillors also helped to spread the message in the community addressing concerns about safety and ingredients. Schools and local businesses also encouraged parents to take up the offer of free vaccination.
As a result, the figures for September and October show that 26 per cent of children aged four-five have had the vaccination, compared with six per cent in Lancashire and 18 per cent nationally.
A total of 23.5 per cent of eight-nine year olds have also had the vaccination, compared with four per cent in Lancashire and 16 per cent nationally.
Around 19 per cent of five to eight year olds have also had the vaccination, compared with around 5 per cent in Lancashire and 17 per cent nationally.
Dr Preeti Shukla, Clinical Lead for Blackburn with Darwen said: “The campaign was aimed at promoting the message that the flu vaccination protected the whole family, not just the child. Even if your child has never had the flu and was healthy and well – by protecting them against the flu, parents were protecting the whole community as children are the main spreaders of the virus.
“By working with our partners, the CCG has been able to have a real impact on this year’s figures. Councillors, schools and community leaders have all played their part in helping the CCG to deliver the message and encourage more parents than ever before to take up the free offer.
“I would also like to say a huge thank you to parents who have taken the decision to protect their children and their families from the flu. It has helped to protect the wider community as children are the main spreaders of the virus.
Flu is a very common infection in babies and children and it can be very unpleasant for them. Symptoms are the same as adults, including fever, chills, aching muscles, headache, stuffy nose, dry cough and a sore throat lasting up to a week. Some children can develop a very high fever or complications of flu, such as bronchitis, pneumonia and a painful middle ear infection. They may need hospital treatment, and very occasionally a child may die from flu. In fact, healthy children under the age of five are more likely to have to be admitted to hospital with flu than any other age group.
Councillor Mohammed Khan, leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, added: “The Council was pleased to work in partnership with the CCG to remind parents of the risks of not taking up the flu vaccination. By promoting the benefits of the vaccination through local councillors, ward solution meetings and using the children’s centre network, we were able to get the message across to parents effectively and address any concerns they had. Schools also promoted the importance of the vaccination as it would also help reduce the number of pupil and staff sick days throughout the Winter period.”
For more information about the flu vaccination for children, contact your local GP for two and three years olds and your school for children aged four to eight.
The latest figures are available here – https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/seasonal-flu-vaccine-uptake-in-children-of-primary-school-age-monthly-data-2017-to-2018
Further information on the flu campaign is available at www.facebook.com/bwdccg