THE child flu vaccination programme has kicked off following a delay due to shortages of the vaccine.

Last month, the Advertiser reported that the programme had been temporarily paused for certain age groups after the vaccine had run short.

All remaining supplies are now available and everyone in the Forth Valley region is being urged to get vaccinated if they are eligible for it.

Children and adults with health conditions and parents of children aged 2-5 years are urged to protect themselves and their children against flu, which can be a serious and fatal illness for these groups of people.

Nuala Healy, organisational lead for screening and immunisation at NHS Health Scotland, said: "Getting the flu vaccine is hugely beneficial for your child's health. It can help them avoid days spent ill in bed rather than being at nursery or taking part in day to day activities, especially during the Christmas holidays.

"The flu vaccine is a simple vaccination that is given as a quick and painless nasal spray.

"Parents can be assured about the seriousness of flu and the safety of the vaccine by visiting the website."

Dr Jim McMenamin, who leads the seasonal flu immunisation programme at Health Protection Scotland, added: "Flu is much worse than a bad cold. Every year in Scotland, children are hospitalised for the treatment of flu or its complications.

"Young children can be especially vulnerable because their immune systems haven't fully developed yet.

"That's why we are urging parents to contact their GP or local flu clinic to make an appointment for their child.

"We can't emphasise enough that the flu vaccine is the safest and most effective protection against the flu virus."

Pregnant women, those aged 65 and over, and people with underlying medical conditions are also urged to get their free vaccine in the next few weeks, before flu begins to circulate widely.

People with conditions like diabetes, heart or breathing problems, had the greatest decline in uptake of the vaccine last year, yet are at greater risk from the complications of flu.

NHS Health Scotland and the Scottish Government are currently re-running radio and digital adverts to encourage vaccine uptake among eligible groups.