Half of Kent's primary school children not taking up flu nasal spray
Figures have revealed half of Kent's primary school children have not been having their flu inoculation.
It comes as the government prepares for the biggest flu vaccination programme in UK history in a bid to reduce pressure on the NHS this winter.
Free flu jabs will be offered to 30 million people across the UK - doubling its current programme - which now includes all school year groups up to Year 7.
There are concerns the seasonal flu and an outbreak of the coronavirus could both overwhelm the NHS this winter.
But new data collected by the BBC Shared Data Unit has revealed the scale of the challenge ahead to increase the number of people taking up the offer of a flu immunisation.
Figures show only 51% of primary school children aged between four and 11 were vaccinated in Kent.
The picture is worse in Medway where only 49% of kids of the same age had the jab.
Vulnerable under 65s with pre-existing conditions - including diabetes, multiple sclerosis and asthma - will also be offered the vaccine this year.
But figures for this group show the rate of people having the jab has declined over the past five years.
Data for Kent show it has dropped from 47.8% in 2015 to 42.8% in 2020 - meaning less than half are having it.
There has been a greater decline in Medway, where it has dropped more than 6% in the past five years.
The World Health Organisation says countries should aim for 75%.
A spokesperson for Public Health England and the NHS in Kent and Medway said it's "more important than ever" to manage the risk posed by flu alongside the "continued threat" from the coronavirus.
"Flu can be a killer, particularly for the elderly and those with existing health conditions," they said.
"Getting immunised doesn’t just protect you from infection; it also means that you won’t be at risk of catching it and passing it on to others.
"The expansion of the vaccination programme to more of our young people and a broader section of our adult population means that more of us can play our part in reducing flu in our communities, keeping people safe and reducing pressure on the NHS over the winter period.
"In the coming weeks we will be publicising further details on how people will be able to get their flu jab."