Northern Ireland parents encouraged to talk to their children about the flu and Covid-19 vaccines
The Public Health Agency (PHA) is calling on the parents of eligible children to talk to them about the flu and COVID-19 vaccines, and make an informed choice together about getting vaccinated.
This year in Northern Ireland, the childhood flu vaccination programme will be offered to pre-school and primary school children as well as those in Year 8 to Year 12 of post primary school.
In addition, children aged 12 to 15 will now be offered one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine through the school immunisation programme.
This decision comes following recommendations from the four UK Chief Medical Officers.
Dr Jillian Johnston, consultant in Health Protection at the PHA, said: “We are urging the parents of children in the eligible cohorts to take up the offer of the vaccine, as getting children vaccinated is the first line of defence against viruses such as flu and COVID-19, which can spread easily, particularly in the winter months when we spend more time indoors.
“This can lead to days spent at home, missing precious time at school, as well as causing considerable inconvenience for the whole family, not to mention putting more vulnerable family members at risk.”
Children who are eligible for the flu vaccine will be offered Fluenz Tetra, the vaccine used for children over the age of two in the UK. It’s a quick, painless spray up their nose.
Children aged 12 to 15 are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and will be offered one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, which will be administered as a jab in the arm.
Dr Johnston added: “For some children this will be the first time they will be eligible for the flu vaccine and it’s the first time in Northern Ireland that children aged 12 to 15 with no underlying health conditions have been eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
“It’s therefore understandable that both parents and children will have questions and concerns around the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines.
“The vaccines used in the school programme have been proven to be both safe and effective for this age group. Getting vaccinated can provide direct protection, lessens spread and helps protect the health of those close to you, and as well as reduce pressure on our health service.
“I would urge parents to read the information leaflets and talk to your children about the vaccines and make an informed decision together.
“It’s important that you check that your information comes from a reliable and trusted source such as the PHA or NI Direct. There is lots of misinformation out there, particularly about the COVID-19 vaccine.”
Pre-school children in Northern Ireland aged two to four years are eligible to receive the free flu vaccine through their GP. Children in primaries one to seven and children in Year 8 to Year 12 will be offered the flu vaccine in school. Meanwhile those in aged 12 to 15 will also be offered the COVID-19 vaccine in school.
Dr Johnston continued: “We are fortunate to have a comprehensive flu and COVID vaccination programme, benefitting the health of the population. However, these benefits may only be realised if a high proportion of the groups who can get the vaccine actually take up the offer.
“We would encourage all schools and parents/guardians to share the vaccine information with their children. We are also urging parents/guardians not to forget to sign and send back the consent form to school for your primary and eligible secondary school children, and to make an appointment with your GP for pre-school vaccination, or they may miss out.”