GPs to vaccinate two-year-olds against flu from September

The government has brought forward plans to begin routine vaccination of children against flu, as it confirmed its shingles, rotavirus and meningitis C programmes.

Negotiations on GP funding for the new programme are ongoing
Negotiations on GP funding for the new programme are ongoing

Around 650,000 children aged two will be offered a nasal flu vaccine from this September, instead of the following year as was originally planned.

When the plans were announced last year ministers warned they would not have enough vaccines to begin the programme until 2014.

Pilots to vaccinate primary and preschool children will run in some areas in 2014 ahead of a national roll-out the following year.

Meanwhile, a rotavirus vaccination programme will begin for children under four months on 1 July 2013. The infection, the most common cause of gastroenteritis in infants and young children, is responsible for around 140,000 GP visits and 14,000 hospitalisations a year.

A shingles programme for people over 70, with a catch-up for those up to 79, will begin in September.

From 2013/14 academic year, a new meningitis C booster jab for 12 and 13-year-olds will replace the dose currently given at four months. The DH said evidence showed the routine four-month vaccine was no longer required.

Professor David Salisbury, DH director of immunisation, said: ‘By offering new vaccines to two groups at the opposite end of the age scale, we can protect our most vulnerable against potentially harmful diseases. And the introduction of a teenage booster for meningitis C will improve the protection given to young people.’

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at Public Health England, said: ‘The introduction of the oral rotavirus vaccine in the US and parts of Europe has had a major impact on preventing young children from developing this unpleasant vomiting and diarrhoeal disease.

‘In the countries where the vaccine has already been introduced, the uptake has been high and has resulted in rapid and sustained reductions in childhood rotavirus hospitalisations. We are excited to be offering this vaccine as part of the national infant immunisation programme in the UK.’

GPC member and Wessex LMC chief executive Dr Nigel Watson said the announcements were mostly as anticipated by GPs with the exception of the shingles catch-up programme for up to 79-year-olds, which practices would need to fit in during the winter flu campaign.

He said it made sense to begin vaccinating two-year-olds as soon as possible, but warned practices would have to look at how they manage workload. ‘It’s important that the funding comes with the work’, said Dr Watson.

He added that GPs would be anticipating the conclusion of ongoing GPC negotiations over the flu programme for two-year-olds.

MIMS summary of routine childhood immunisations

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