Children aged 2 to 17 years will receive an annual nasal flu vaccination from 2014, the Department of Health has confirmed.
After an 18-month consultation the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised ministers the seasonal flu jab should be extended to all children. Ministers are bound legally to accept these recommendations, reports the Telegraph.
As MadeForMums previously reported, a nasal spray vaccine, rather than needles, would be used, with a four week gap between the two doses. The vaccine, licensed in December 2011, is made from eggs so would not be given to children with known allergies.
Children will be vaccinated every year. The vaccine would be updated annually to combat the three most common strains of the illness.
Younger children are to be given the vaccination by their GP while schoolchildren will get the vaccine at school every September or October.
The £100 million scheme aims to lower the number of flu related deaths, particularly among the elderly. Infant deaths from flu are rare, but frequent contact with friends, relatives and the elderly means vaccinating children could reduce the spread of infection. According to the Department of Health this could save up to 2,000 lives.
The vaccination is not compulsory, but Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England, said “even modest take-up” would help protect children further and also “protect our most vulnerable”.
There have been some objections as to whether school nurses and doctors could cope with the increased demand. However, Dr Clare Gerada, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said, “This is a very welcome announcement and we urge the Government not to delay but to start implementation as quickly as possible. We should never underestimate flu – it can be life-threatening.”