PARENTS and carers have been urged by the NHS to arrange a flu vaccination for their two and three-year-old children this winter.  

The flu vaccination programme is underway across the south west of England, and the health service says thousands of parents and carers have taken the opportunity to have their children vaccinated against flu.

Because of Covid-19 restrictions, influenza activity levels were low around the world last year. 

With social mixing and social contact returning towards pre-pandemic norms, it is expected this will be the first winter where flu and Covid may co-circulate. 

It is also anticipated that there may be a higher rate of flu infection.

The NHS says research shows people who get Covid and flu at the same time are more likely to become seriously ill. 

Dr Julie Yates, lead consultant for screening and immunisation for NHS England and NHS Improvement south west, said: "Each year, the NHS vaccinates millions of people against flu, and this year it is even more important than ever that eligible children and adults take up the offer of a free flu vaccine as we head towards what is likely to be a very challenging winter for the NHS.

"Infection with the flu virus has a serious impact on the health of thousands of people every winter, and getting your child vaccinated will protect them, and will also reduce the chance of them passing it to other family members and loved ones.

"Please book an appointment for your child to get the vaccine as soon as possible."

Flu symptoms can appear very quickly, and they include a high temperature of about 38°C, an aching body, feeling exhausted, having a sore throat and a runny nose, and a loss of appetite.

Children may also become less active and develop ear pain.

The nasal spray flu vaccine is available for free on the NHS for children who were aged two or three on August 31, 2021. 

It is also available to all primary school children (reception to year six), all year seven to year 11 children in secondary school, and children aged two to 17 with long-term health conditions.

The flu virus can vary each winter, so it is recommended that children receive the vaccine each year to boost their immunity. 

In some instances, an alternative to the nasal spray can be offered if the nasal spray vaccine is not suitable.

Speak to your child’s nurse or doctor if they are aged two or three. 

If your child is at school (primary to year 11), speak to their school's immunisations team. 

Parents and carers of home-schooled children should contact their local community clinic.