This site is intended for health professionals only

All children to be offered flu vaccine

Flu vaccinations are set to be offered to all children up to the age of 17, following a recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

Andrew Lansley is due to accept the proposal to extend the current vaccination programme, which will make the UK the first country in the world to offer flu vaccinations to all its children free-of-charge.

It is estimated that the programme, which will immunise up to nine million children in a six to eight week period, will prevent 11,000 hospital admissions and 2,000 deaths each year.

Currently, only children in high-risk groups, such as those with heart conditions, asthma or cerebral palsy are offered flu vaccinations on the NHS.

The JCVI concluded that although there would be challenges involved in setting up the programme, the benefits outweighed the potential problems.

The challenges now faced by the NHS include sourcing enough of the vaccine to immunise all children in the UK, and finding the £100 million the service is estimated to cost.

It has not yet been decided who will deliver the vaccine to children, and whether this will fall to school nurses or other qualified staff.

The logistics of vaccinating nine million children in the crucial six to eight week window before the flu season begins is also being examined.

Adults in at-risk groups will continue to be offered the vaccination on the NHS, but as yet there are no plans to roll out the scheme to all adults.

 “Severe winter flu and its complications can  make people really ill and can kill, particularly those who are weak and frail which is why we already offer vaccinations to the most at-risk groups." said Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies.

“We accept the advice of our expert committee that rolling out a wider programme could further protect children, with even a modest take-up helping to protect our most vulnerable.

“There are significant challenges to delivering a programme that requires up to nine million children to be vaccinated during a six week period and we will look at the recommendations in detail to decide how best to develop and deliver the programme.”