Earlier this year, ministers announced plans to offer a nasal flu vaccine to children aged two from September as a first step towards protection for all children.
Extending the campaign to three-year-olds will double the number of children practices must contact to offer the vaccination from 650,000 to more than 1m.
GPs have warned that the profession will need to 'create miracles' to reach flu uptake targets this year because details of the campaign for 2013 were published only last week, two months later than in previous years.
The campaign will be extended over time to all children from two to 17 years of age.
A statement from NHS England said: ‘GP practices will be required to vaccinate all registered patients aged two and three years, but not yet four, on 1 September 2013 on either:
- A proactive call basis, if not considered at-risk.
- Or a proactive call and recall basis, if considered at-risk.’
Practices will be offered £7.64 for each registered patient in this age range vaccinated during the seven-month period from 1 September 2013 to 31 March 2014.
The NHS England statement adds: ‘Payment will be based on a completed course of treatment, meaning that for at-risk patients this will be following the second dose of vaccine being administered.’
GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said that because the vaccine would be supplied centrally by NHS England, problems practices would have had pre-ordering vaccines in time for September would 'hopefully not be an issue, assuming the central supply works'.
He said the increased workload for practices from extending vaccination to three-year-olds would be 'substantial', although relatively modest compared with numbers covered by the flu campaign as a whole.
'Practices need to plan to invite the relevant children,' Dr Vautrey said. 'It is a significant workload, practices will need to make a decision as to whether the fee they will receive will cover that workload. The fee in line with the other immunisation fees practices are now familiar with – it will provide some resource to practices. Practices will need to look at that carefully.'
He backed the decision to extend flu vaccination to children. 'We have to take the advice of experts, they believe this is a good way of reducing flu – we have to remember it is a poten-tially life-threatening illness.'