Over 3,000 more children in Wolverhampton received their free flu vaccination this winter, with uptake increasing markedly year on year.

Inspired by a unique marketing campaign which saw the colourful storybook, Flu Fighters Versus Chilly, Achy and Snotty, distributed to thousands of pupils across the city, the number of children taking the Fluenz nasal spray increased by around 13% in 2018 compared to the year before.

Figures show that in 2017 barely 54.5% of eligible children had the vaccine, which protects them against the most common strains of influenza. By the end of December 2018, that figure leapt to 61% and in total 3,171 more children received the vaccination this winter, including Year 5 pupils who were ineligible in 2017.

The figures are expected to increase further, as the vaccination programme continued into January for which data is not yet available.

In comparison, uptake in 2017 across the wider Black Country was approximately 55%, while 57.2% of children in the West Midlands had received the vaccine by the end of December 2018.

Flu Fighters Versus Chilly, Achy and Snotty tells the story of three slimy alien invaders from the Planet Bogey who have come to Earth "to spread disease and make the children of Wolverhampton cough, splutter and sneeze".

Fortunately, their dastardly plans are thwarted by a watchful nurse who protects our young heroes by giving them the Fluenz nasal spray, thereby turning them into Flu Fighters.

Councillor Hazel Malcolm, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Cabinet Member for Public Health and Wellbeing, said: "We are delighted that so many more children and their families chose to receive the free Fluenz vaccine this winter - and in doing so protected themselves and others from the flu.

"We were very pleased with the positive feedback we received from children, parents, schools and healthcare professionals to our Flu Fighters campaign, and that the fantastically illustrated, exciting exploits of Chilly, Achy and Snotty seem to have helped to bring about a marked improvement in the number of children being vaccinated.

"Indeed, uptake in Wolverhampton, which is traditionally the worst in the Black Country, is this year the best, and one of the highest rates ever achieved in Wolverhampton. It is also above the national average and our best performance since responsibility for public health transferred from the NHS to the council in 2013.

"While we are of course happy that thousands more vaccinations have been given out this winter, we will continue to work hard to ensure that more and more of our children and young people take up any and all vaccinations they are eligible for, this and every year."

The Fluenz vaccine is offered free of charge every autumn to all children aged two and three, as well as pupils from Reception through to Year 5 and older children with certain long-term health conditions. It is delivered without the use of needles via a quick and painless nasal spray.

Children in primary and junior schools, as well as school nurseries, each received their own free copy of Flu Fighters Versus Chilly, Achy and Snotty, while those who went on to have the vaccine got a Flu Fighters sticker to show they had joined the fight.

To find out more about the Fluenz nasal spray for children, and to read and download Flu Fighters Versus Chilly, Achy and Snotty for free, please visit FREE Fluenz flu vaccination for children.

The Flu Fighters campaign was devised by the City of Wolverhampton Council's Public Health team and communications and marketing professionals from the City of Wolverhampton Council, Wolverhampton Clinical Commissioning Group and the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust.

Kim Corbett, Infection Prevention nurse manager for the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, said: "We are delighted with the improvement shown this year in the take up of the flu vaccination.

"At the Trust we have seen 61.57% frontline staff get their jabs which means we have been highlighted as one of the most improved Trusts in the country as compared to last year.

"The trend within the Trust seems to align with the trend in Wolverhampton as a whole, and we are encouraged to see the take up amongst school children has seen a strong increase this year thanks to the success of the vaccination campaign."