Adding four-year olds to the school influenza vaccination programme this year is likely to increase uptake, thereby helping to reduce incidence of flu-like illness among this and other age groups, a GP expert has said.
Children up to four years old are known as ‘superspreaders’ of flu, because they tend to have greater contact with others and are less likely to cover their mouths when coughing.
Uptake across GP practices last season saw just 34% of four-year olds vaccinated, lagging behind uptake in two-year olds (39%) and three-year olds (42%).
In comparison, uptake was 58% in the school programme for pupils in year 1, which children start aged five and end aged six.
Dr George Kassianos, RCGP national immunisation lead, said taking four-year-olds out of the GP vaccination programme will lead to a slight loss of income, but would come alongside a ‘considerable decrease in GP workload’.
‘The rate of vaccination by GPs depended very much on parents bringing their children to the surgery for vaccination,’ he said.
‘The vaccination rate was under 40%. Now that children aged four will be vaccinated by the school services, we should see a higher flu vaccination rate and, therefore, lower influenza-like illness among these children but also in all other ages because children are vaccinated.
‘Yes, there will be a certain loss of income for GP practices but there will be a considerable decrease in GP workload, which GP practices will very much welcome.’