Flu immunisation rates amongst young children in Gloucestershire soared this winter thanks to provision of a school-based vaccination programme.

For the first time in Gloucestershire, children in Reception and school years one to four were offered immunisations at their school. Previously, parents were required to take their children to their GP.

The impact was an increase in immunisation rates from 36 per cent last year to 62 per cent this year, meaning that more than 21,300 children in the county were protected against flu this winter.

Candace Plouffe, chief operating officer at Gloucestershire Care Services which runs the school immunisation service, said: “We’re extremely proud to have exceeded our target of 60 per cent vaccinations amongst this group of children, which represents a fantastic effort by our immunisations team.

“They have set up and run this programme successfully in 300 schools across the county, which has taken an incredible amount of work and organisation behind the scenes.

“For a team of 13 nurses to vaccinate more than 21,000 children in a matter of weeks is a very impressive achievement, and one I know the team is looking to build on this year.”

Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust was awarded a new contract last summer to provide immunisation in schools, where children are offered vaccinations against meningitis, tetanus, diphtheria and polio and girls can receive the HPV immunisation.

However, the contract also included the new school-aged flu immunisation programme, which meant developing relationships with every primary school across the county and planning sessions at each. They also provided catch-up sessions in the community, as well as creating a system for online consent so that parents could go online to give the required permission.

Caroline Halford, who leads the Trust’s Immunisation Team, said: “The partnership work and the way we’ve been received by schools has been brilliant.

“There’s still more to do – we can improve the online consent process and are planning more work with schools to raise the profile of flu and get the pupils involved to explain why we vaccinate them.

“With the possibility of further year groups being added in the future there will be plenty to keep the team busy! But this winter has been a great start, thanks to the hard work of my colleagues and support of a great admin team.”

The vaccination is administered to children as a nasal spray instead of injection. Young children are immunised because they can act as ‘super spreaders’ of infection by coming into contact with large numbers of their peers through school or nursery, as well as parents and family over the Christmas holidays.

Flu is a highly contagious virus which causes a fever, aches and pains, nausea and a harsh cough. It can lead to serious complications, including pneumonia and bronchitis, with those aged 65 and over, babies and people with long-term health conditions at greatest risk.

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