NHS Scotland’s seasonal flu vaccination campaign will focus on young children and people with health conditions.
The launch was led by health professionals at Fife’s Victoria Hospital Dialysis Unit as they urged the public to ‘Trust the Facts’.
The campaign focuses on people with health conditions and children aged between two and five years old.
Every year thousands of children are hospitalised with flu and even healthy children can become seriously ill from it. Protecting children can also stop it spreading to family, friends and others.
To date more than 1.6 million doses of the nasal vaccine have been given to two to 11-year-olds as part of the Scottish childhood immunisation programme.
Now the health service are urging more parents and carers to take up the offer to have their child vaccinated in a bid to protect public health.
Nuala Healy, organisational lead for screening and immunisation at NHS Health Scotland, said: “We know that misinformation about vaccines online, particularly on social media, can influence the decisions parents make about vaccines.
“That’s why we’re urging parents in this campaign to trust the factual information about vaccines provided by the NHS at flufacts.scot or from your health professional.”
River City star Jordan Young also helped launched the campaign in his hometown.
The actor has two young daughters: one aged two who will receive the free nasal spray vaccine for the first time this year, and the other aged six who will get the vaccine at primary school.
Dunfermline mum Joanna Cowan is making sure her son three-year-old Fergus gets the flu jab this year: “The flu is no joke.
“It’s dangerous for so many people. At Fergus’ age kids bring home all sorts of bugs from nursery or playing with pals.
“With the flu vaccination I know he’s protected from a bug that can really harm him.
“It’s free. And it protects your kids from a serious disease. Why wouldn’t you do it?”
The campaign is also targeting people with health conditions like breathing problems, diabetes and heart or kidney conditions.
The largest decline in uptake of the vaccine last year was amongst people with these conditions, yet they are at greater risk of the dangers of flu.
Every year in Scotland, two thirds of people who end up in intensive care because of flu have an existing health condition.
And patients with a health condition are 18 times more likely to die from flu than those without.
Ian Baxter, from Forfar, is living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
He runs the Forfar Airways, a Peer Support Group, supported by Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland.
The group links closely with local NHS rehabilitation services to support people in managing their condition.
He said: “I’ve had the flu vaccination every year since I was diagnosed with COPD back in 2004.
“Getting the flu would be such a bad thing. The thought of it developing into a chest infection and having to fight it off is a big fear for me – it would be really hard for me to bounce back with my condition.
“The flu jab, for someone living with COPD or any other respiratory condition, needs no consideration at all. I actively promote the flu vaccination to Forfar Airways group members every year, and will be doing so again this year.”
Today also marks the start of a national advertising campaign to raise awareness of the importance of the vaccination.
Developed by NHS Health Scotland, TV and radio adverts will encourage people to contact their GP practice now and get the vaccine.
And online adverts, including on social media, will invite people to watch and share short animations.
Dr Jim McMenamin, who leads the seasonal flu immunisation programme at Health Protection Scotland, said: “We can’t emphasise enough that the facts show the flu vaccine is the safest and most effective way to help protect against flu and its complications.
“Getting the vaccine only takes a few minutes and helps to provide protection from flu for around a year. Contact your GP practice now, and get protected for winter.”