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Parents are being urged to take up the offer of having their children vaccinated against flu to reduce the spread of the virus.

As part of the biggest ever flu vaccination campaign, the NHS is encouraging parents to sign the consent forms so their children can have the free inoculation.

For the first time, children in Year 7 will also be offered the vaccination, alongside children aged 2 and 3 on 31 August 2020, children in primary school, and any child aged six months plus with an underlying health condition.

Children under the age of five are more likely to be admitted to hospital due to flu than any other age group.

By vaccinating them, not only does it protect them, it also helps to slow the spread of the virus within the community.

Hampshire GP Dr Clare Matthews said: “I want to encourage you to get your children vaccinated because the flu is a very common childhood illness and can be really unpleasant for them.

“Children who are two or three or eligible four-year-olds will be able to have their vaccine done at their GP surgery, while school children will be offered theirs in school.

“The vaccine is a nasal spray – a single spray up each nostril – it’s quick, it’s painless and it’s really easy.

“People think ‘it’s just flu’ but unfortunately it can lead to complications and even hospitalisation which is why it’s important to have the vaccination.”

Watch a video of Dr Clare Matthews explain the importance of having the flu vaccination.

Parents will start to see letters asking for consent from this week.

Jackie Ardley, is chief nurse at Solent NHS Trust, which will be delivering the school vaccination programme across Portsmouth, Southampton and the Isle of Wight.

She said: “We are encouraging the families of all Year R to Year 7 children to ensure that their child receives the nasal spray vaccination so that they are protected against the flu this autumn.

“Letters are being sent to schools outlining how our dedicated teams of nurses will be vaccinating children in sessions, as well as offering evening and Saturday clinics.”

Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust will be delivering the school vaccination programme across the rest of the county.

Ginny Taylor, deputy director of operations for children and family services, said: “We are really proud of the service we deliver to our children and families in Hampshire and pleased to be part of the wider Hampshire and Isle of Wight public health response to this year’s flu programme.

“Our schools are instrumental in supporting us to deliver the programme and achieve a very high uptake by ensuring we can offer the flu vaccination to children in school.”

Flu is a highly infectious disease that is spread from person to person and infects the respiratory system, where it can lead to pneumonia and other complications.

The flu viruses are constantly changing and this is one of the main reasons why people should be vaccinated annually.

The symptoms, that come on very quickly, include fever, chills, headaches, aches and pains in the joints and muscles, and extreme tiredness.