All children will be immunised against flu, ministers confirm

All school-age children will be immunised against flu, after ministers accepted recommendations to extend the annual flu vaccination scheme.

Flu vaccine: ministers back protection for all children
Flu vaccine: ministers back protection for all children

As GP magazine revealed in May, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) backed vaccination of all children earlier this year. The JCVI has now made its official recommendations to ministers and the DH has announced that health secretary Andrew Lansley will accept the recommendations.

Up to 9m children will be offered the vaccine, but will not begin to be offered the vaccine until 2014 at the earlier, the DH said. At present, only children in at-risk groups are offered routine annual flu vaccination.

Once the programme is up and running the vaccine will be offered to all children aged two to around 17 years on the NHS.

The JCVI said that there would be significant challenges involved in extending the programme, but they are outweighed by the health benefits that a comprehensive immunisation programme could bring.

The DH said that even with moderate vaccination uptake there would be a drop of around 40% in the number of people affected by flu, with at least 11,000 fewer hospitalisations and around 2,000 fewer deaths a year.

Children would be vaccinated with the nasal flu vaccine Fluenz. Ministers expect the new flu vaccination programme to cost more than £100 million each year.

Chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said the government had accepted the JCVI’s advice that rolling out a wider programme could further protect children.

‘There are significant challenges to delivering a programme that requires up to 9m 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.’

In a statement, the JCVI said: ‘On the basis of the findings of the cost effectiveness study and the committee’s previous conclusions, JCVI recommends that the annual influenza vaccination programme be extended to include school-aged children (spanning ages five to less than 17 years) as this is highly likely to be cost effective and well within accepted cost effectiveness thresholds. It is the most cost effective option evaluated.

‘Extending the vaccination programme to include low risk children aged six months to less than five years as well as aged five to less than 17 years is also likely to be cost effective, although the additional benefit may be relatively small in comparison.’

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