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All secondary school students to be offered flu vaccine from September

All secondary school students to be offered flu vaccine from September

Free flu vaccinations will be offered to all secondary school students in England from September, expanding the programme’s eligibility to three million more children.

The government confirmed what has been described as a ‘bold and laudable’ extension of the 2023/34 flu vaccination scheme this week.

The update means children between school years 7 and 11 will receive a nasal spray vaccine through their school’s vaccination service.

In May, an initial list of groups eligible for the flu vaccination omitted secondary school children, but the government had noted at the time that a decision on this group would be taken at a later date.

Health minister Maria Caulfield said that the programme’s extension would not only provide protection to ‘millions of young people’ but would also ‘reduce the risk of transmission to more vulnerable groups, including the elderly, reducing hospitalisations and freeing up bed capacity across the NHS’.

Ms Caulfield stressed the importance of all pupils receiving the immunisation, noting the ‘devastating impact’ of the 2022 winter flu season.

The winter of 2022 saw significantly higher than normal pressure on the NHS due to high numbers of hospitalisations due to flu cases in the community.

Sharon White, chief executive of the School and Public Nurses Association (SAPHNA), described the expansion as ‘bold and laudable’ but cautioned that this was also ‘a huge ask’ for school immunisation providers.

‘The short time scale will pose additional logistical challenges for the workforce, but also for schools who have complex and demanding timescales as well as limited space,’ said Ms White.

The roll out would need to be ‘well managed’ and ‘integrated into the rest of the childhood immunisation schedule’ in order to be successful, she added.

However, Ms White remained confident that the public health workforce will ‘rise to the challenge and use innovative ways to build capacity and deliver on the ask’ by making use of learning and modelling from the Covid-19 immunisation programme.

The Department of Health and Social Care said that the decision to expand the programme was in line with a long-standing recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which highlights the benefits of directly protecting school-aged children from flu, and the indirect benefits to the wider population.

NHS school aged immunisation services will be undertaking the vaccinations from September during the autumn term.

Children who are not able to receive the flu vaccine in schools will be asked to book an appointment with a general practice or community clinic.

All primary school children and infants aged two and three will also be offered the flu vaccine, as previously announced in May.

Eligible groups are urged to take up the offer from September, before the flu season begins, to give themselves the best possible protection in winter.

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