Health chiefs in Brighton and Hove have today started a week-long drive to encourage teenagers to have booster jabs.
Just three in five teenagers are currently having the vaccinations which protect them from tetanus, diphtheria and polio.
The campaign – Immunisation Week – is also targeting the parents of children due to have their pre-school booster. The take-up rate is currently about four in five.
The pre-school booster protects children against whooping cough as well as tetanus, diphtheria and polio.
NHS Sussex, which includes Brighton and Hove City Teaching Primary Care Trust, is one of the organisations behind Immunisation Week.
It said that both boosters provided a vital immunity top-up even if children and young people had previously had vaccinations as babies.
Children having the pre-school booster are also offered the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) immunisation at the same time.
NHS Sussex said that there had been cases of measles and mumps locally this year and last year. Some had led to serious health complications which needed hospital treatment.
Rosanna Raven, Brighton and Hove’s specialist immunisation nurse, said: “Children and young people need these boosters to ensure they are fully protected against potentially serious diseases.
“Invitations and reminders are sent to children and young people to have these free boosters and we urge them to take up this offer and be vaccinated.
“If you or your child are eligible for a booster but have missed or not received an invitation, please speak to your GP surgery or health visitor.”
Ms Raven practises what she preaches, having ensured that both her son and daughter had the relevant vaccinations as they were growing up.
Now she works closely with colleagues – including GPs, practice nurses, school nurses and health visitors – to ensure other people’s children have the same health benefits.
She said: “Immunisation is incredibly important and an effective way of providing protection against illnesses – from seasonal flu to measles, diphtheria and polio – which can lead to serious complications and even, in rare cases, prove fatal.
“A comprehensive immunisation programme runs across Sussex and helps to ensure that babies, children and young people are safer than ever before from many diseases.”
She acknowledged that some parents had concerns about the safety of vaccination but added: “While all medicines have potential side effects, vaccines are among the very safest medicines that we have and they have saved the lives of thousands of people across the world.”
Brighton and Hove has some of the lowest take-up rates in Sussex.
The week-long campaign started today (Monday 10 October) and runs until Friday (14 October).
Flyers and posters to raise awareness of the boosters and their importance have been produced as part of Immunisation Week.
They will be distributed to schools for Reception Year children and for Year Ten pupils.
The flyers also encourage those at higher risk of flu complications to have a flu jab.
The pre-school booster is usually given to children between the ages of three years and four months and about five years old.
A ten year gap between both boosters is recommended so the teenage booster is usually offered to students from the age of 15.
More information is available from GP surgeries, health visitors and www.nhs.uk/vaccinations.
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