Flu vaccination for every child from 2014 to save 2,000 lives a year
Mass vaccination in form of nasal spray 'in the best interests of children'While youngsters not likely to develop complications of flu they can pass it on to elderly family membersGovernment estimate scheme will lead to 11,000 fewer hospital admissions and 2,000 fewer deaths
Daily Mail Reporter
11:58 GMT, 25 July 2012
12:19 GMT, 25 July 2012
All children are to be given the flu vaccination after experts said it could save up to 2,000 lives a year.
The scheme, which is expected to be rolled out in 2014, will see all children aged two to 17 given the vaccination through a nasal spray.
Younger children will be given the spray at their GP practice and schoolchildren will receive it at school.
Girl receiving nasal spray vaccine: It is now far easier to administer
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which advises the Government on vaccination policy, said the flu programme should be extended to children because it could reduce the rate of infection by 40%.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has accepted the recommendation, a Department of Health spokesman said.
At present, over-65s, pregnant women and people with a serious medical condition, including children, are eligible for a seasonal flu jab.
The UK will become the first country to offer the flu vaccine to healthy children free of charge. The measure is expected to cost 100 million a year.
Healthy children are among those who are least likely to develop complications from being infected by flu, but their close contact with each other means they are more likely to transmit the virus to one another and other vulnerable people.
The mass immunisation programme is estimated to lead to 11,000 fewer hospital admissions and 2,000 fewer deaths every year.
The Department of Health said it needs to examine a number of issues before the programme can be rolled out.
Masses of the Fluenz vaccine, which will be used on about nine million children, need to be sourced and a decision needs to be made on who will deliver the vaccine – whether it should be school nurses or other healthcare workers.
Health experts also need to decide how the programme will be delivered in a six to eight-week period ahead of the flu season.
Dr Hilary Cass, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said: 'By offering the flu vaccine to all children, we should be able to significantly reduce the number of serious cases of flu – both amongst children and other members of their family.
'Flu is highly contagious and even though a healthy child is unlikely to develop complications, they could well pass on the virus to other members of the family, such as siblings or grandparents, who are more vulnerable.
'There is sometimes anxiety amongst parents when deciding whether or not have their children vaccinated – but we should reassure them that the decision to offer the flu vaccine widely has been made by weighing up the relative pros and cons. So we can be confident that today's proposal is in the best interest of children.'
However, Dr David Elliman, Consultant in Community Child Health, Great Ormond Street Hospital, said: 'I have immense concerns in terms of the human resources required to deliver this. School nurses are already very hard stretched and come nowhere near delivering the basics from the Healthy Child Programme.
'If this is just added in to their workload, it will devastate their morale. If it is carried out by 'lay personnel' is this appropriate Giving immunisations involves much more than just administering the vaccine, but counselling parents and, where appropriate, the young people. Lay people would not have the knowledge to do this.'