Primary school flu vaccine rollout could cut GP workload

GPs could see fewer incidences of patients with influenza-like symptoms as the national flu vaccination programme is widened to include children in school years 1 and 2 this winter, pilot schemes suggest.

Flu vaccine: children aged five to seven will receive the vaccine in 2015/16 (Photo: Science Photo Library)
Flu vaccine: children aged five to seven will receive the vaccine in 2015/16 (Photo: Science Photo Library)

Results from pilots suggest that GPs can expect fewer consultations for influenza-like illness in patients of any age if all primary school-aged children are offered the influenza vaccine.

For the first time in 2015/16, all children in school years 1 and 2 – aged between five and seven years old – will become eligible to receive the vaccine as part of the national flu immunisation programme.

These children are most likely to receive their dose of the vaccine through their school, but could receive the vaccine ‘through primary care in some instances’, dependent on local commissioning arrangements.

Child flu vaccination

Only two- and three-year-olds were offered the vaccine when the programme launched in 2013/14. It opened up to include four-year-olds last year. As the scheme expands, all children of primary and secondary school age will eventually be offered the vaccine every year.

Studies commissioned by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have shown that, despite high outset costs, extending the programme to all children is ‘highly likely’ to be cost effective and ‘well below the established cost-effectiveness threshold’ when taking indirect protection into account.

Results from 2013/14 pilots that vaccinated all primary school-aged children against flu found that fewer patients of all ages visited their GP or attended A&E with influenza-like illness and respiratory problems compared to non-pilot areas.

In 2014/15, GP practices vaccinated 39% of two-year-olds, 41% of three-year-olds and 33% of four-year-olds against flu. PHE said it expected uptake to hit between 40% and 60% this year.

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