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Trust the Facts. That’s the message from Scottish actor Jordan Young and leading health professionals as they launched this year’s seasonal flu campaign at a Dialysis Unit in a Fife hospital.

The campaign promotes the Scottish Government’s national flu vaccination programme, with a focus on people with health conditions and children aged 2-5.

Fife-born Jordan Young, who stars in BBC1’s River City and Scot Squad, is a father of two 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 for the second time at primary school.

Every year thousands of children are hospitalised for flu. 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 2-11 year olds as part of the Scottish childhood immunisation programme. But more parents and carers need to take up the offer for their child to be vaccinated 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. The World Health Organization now lists ‘vaccine hesitancy’ as one of the top 10 threats to global health. That’s why we’re urging parents in this campaign to trust the factual information about vaccines provided by the NHS at or from your health professional. Flu is unpredictable but highly infectious, and the flu vaccine is the best defence we have against it.” 

Joanna Cowan is a mum from Dunfermline. She’s making sure her son Fergus (3) gets the flu jab this year:  

“The flu is no joke. It’s dangerous for so many people - that’s why I’m making sure that Fergus gets the flu jab. 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 also targets people with health conditions like breathing problems, diabetes and heart or kidney conditions. People with these conditions received the largest decline in uptake of the vaccine last year, yet they put people 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 a health condition. It is so much worse than a bad cold: people with a health condition are 18 times more likely to die from flu than those without a health condition.

Ian Baxter, from Forfar, is living with COPD. Ian 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. Ian 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. Online adverts, including on social media, 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.”

Support this year’s seasonal flu campaign by watching and sharing our animations on YouTube on child flu and health conditions.