An innovative NHS immunisation team has adapted its methods of delivering flu vaccinations to schoolchildren in the region – ensuring they are protected from Covid-19, whilst being immunised against the illness.
The team at Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is now ‘mobile’ within some schools in Warrington, Widnes and Runcorn – travelling to the individual class bubbles and using portable vaccination stations to vaccinate children, following very strict infection control measures to minimise the potential for cross contamination between bubbles.
The initiative enables children to be given the vaccine whilst remaining in their class bubbles, rather than the traditional method of queuing in a larger space, providing reassurance to children, their families and school staff.
A significant number of schools have opted for the new system, though the immunisation team at Bridgewater provides a flexible service, within strict infection control measures, adapting to meet the needs of each school.
The Bridgewater immunisation team is now appealing to more parents to allow their children to have a flu vaccine, as take up has been low in some schools.
Lisa Williams, 0-19 Public Health Nurse Specialist – Immunisations, said: “We developed the initiative following concerns raised by a head teacher about how the flu vaccine could be given whilst class bubbles are maintained.
“It is working extremely well and is enabling us to vaccinate hundreds of children and young people against an illness which can be extremely unpleasant, particularly as we approach the winter months and have the complications of the Covid-19 pandemic. We would urge all parents and carers to have their children vaccinated.”
Wendy McKinnon, head teacher of St Andrew’s C.E Primary School in Orford, Warrington, said: “We recently participated in the childhood flu immunisation programme run by the NHS immunisation team.
“The whole process was handled smoothly and professionally with the nurses visiting children within their classroom settings, so maintaining the integrity of our Covid secure ‘bubbles’. PPE was used effectively to further reduce any risks.
“The children were treated very kindly and the whole process was completed efficiently and safely thus reducing the risk of our children, and subsequently the wider community, contracting ‘flu. We felt this was very important during the current pandemic.”
The vaccination programme is in place to help protect children against flu, which can be an unpleasant illness and sometimes causes serious complications. Vaccinating children also helps to protect more vulnerable friends and family by preventing the spread of flu.
To be effective, vaccinations need to be given between October and December as this is before flu tends to circulate.
The flu virus can change year on year and therefore vaccines are made each year to provide protection against the flu viruses that are predicted to circulate and which is why the vaccine needs to be given on an annual basis.
In the Autumn/Winter the annual flu vaccine is offered to children in school years reception, one, two, three, four, five and six, with year seven being included for the first time this year as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme.
The vaccine is given as a single spray squirted up each nostril. Not only is it needle-free – a big advantage for children – the nasal spray is quick, painless, and works even better than the injected flu vaccine.
The vaccine is absorbed very quickly. It will still work even if, after the vaccination, children develop a runny nose, sneezes or blow their nose. Flu vaccines may cause a mild fever which usually resolves within 48 hours. This is a common, expected reaction and isolation is not required unless Covid-19 is suspected.
Five reasons to protect your child:
- Protect your child – the vaccine will help protect your child against flu and serious complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia
- Protect you, your family and you friends – vaccinating your child will help protect more vulnerable family and friends
- No injection needed. The nasal spray is painless and easy to have
- It’s better than having the flu. The nasal spray helps protect against flu, has been given to millions of children worldwide and has an excellent safety record
- Avoid costs. If your child gets flu, you may have to take time off work or arrange alternative childcare.
To find out more about the immunisation and vaccination services provided by Bridgewater, including vaccinations at the weekend for children who may have missed their school session visit: www.bridgewater.nhs.uk/immunisations/