Children's flu vaccine uptake may be boosted by DH-backed nasal spray

Flu vaccine uptake in at-risk children may be increased by official advice to use the nasal spray vaccine in this year's flu season, experts believe.

The DH has said that the nasal spray vaccine Fluenz should be the ‘preferred vaccine’ for at-risk children being offered flu vaccination in 2012-13. The DH has updated the ‘Green Book’, listing live attenuated nasal spray vaccine Fluenz the ‘preferred vaccine’ for children aged 2-18 in clinical risk groups.

RCGP immunisation spokesman Dr George Kassianos said the use of Fluenz could bring benefits.

‘Fluenz has been shown to provide greater protection in children and its method of administration as an intranasal vaccine should increase acceptability among the children in the target group,’ he said.

‘We, therefore, have a better chance of a greater vaccine uptake among children than if we were to offer them the injectable vaccine.'

Hertfordshire GP Dr Mike Ingram, who has an interest in immunisation, said the use of a nasal spray might encourage more children to be immunised against flu, and ease fears among parents. He said parents may too often be more anxious able needles than about the risk of flu for their children.

‘Anything that can take the dread out of injections for children is likely to be a good thing,’ he said. ‘For a child, needles are frightening.’

Dr Peter English, a consultant in communicable disease and a former GP, also believes that needle-less flu immunisation might lead to higher vaccine uptake among at-risk children.

‘People don’t like injections and needles,’ he said. ‘I’m sure that a lot of vaccine concerns are to do with displaced needle anxiety.’

But Dr Kassianos said that one disadvantage of choosing Fluenz as the preferred vaccine was that it is the only intranasal vaccine available for children. ‘Any disruption is supplies could cause a huge problem in our annual immunisation campaign,’ he said.

The DH recognises, because Fluenz has only recently been launched in the UK, there may not be as many doses of Fluenz available as of injectable vaccine. ‘Supplies of this vaccine for the 2012/13 influenza season will be limited,’ it said in the 'Green Book'.

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