All primary school children in England will be offered the flu vaccine this year, Public Health England (PHE) has announced.
PHE confirmed last week that 25 million people will be eligible for vaccination against the flu this winter, including an additional 600,000 primary school children, meaning all are now included.
The children’s vaccination programme has been gradually rolling out to different age groups – with last year seeing all children up to year five at school being included.
The Government said this year represents the ‘largest ever flu protection drive’ to help keep people well and reduce pressure on urgent care services over the winter.
Under the Government’s plans, community pharmacies, GP practices, maternity services and school vaccination teams will offer the flu jab to children aged between two and three, alongside pregnant women, adults with underlying health issues, and the over-65s.
Health officials said it is crucial children are protected against the flu virus first as they tend to be ‘super spreaders due to poorer hand hygiene’.
PHE medical director Professor Yvonne Doyle said: ‘Every winter there is always the threat of a bad flu season. Flu is a serious illness and can even be deadly for the most vulnerable of our population.
‘That’s why it’s vital that we are prepared and always working to offer people better protection.
She added: ‘This year, more vaccines are available and every primary school child will be offered a flu vaccine. Children are “super spreaders” of flu. Flu vaccination not only protects the children but it also protects other more vulnerable members of the community from a potentially horrible illness.’
NHS staff ‘working hard’
NHS England national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said: ‘People might think that flu is just a cough or cold, but actually this serious illness can have devastating effects on people, including causing death in some cases.
‘NHS services across England have been working hard to prepare for the winter season, including staff in every part of the country getting their flu jab in the coming weeks, so now we’re appealing to the public to “help us, help you” by ensuring that you, your children or relatives take up the free and convenient flu vaccine as soon as you can.’
Community pharmacists have been given the go ahead to deliver the annual flu vaccination service since 1 September, after the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) negotiated a flu fee hike to £9.58 and axed the patient questionnaire in August.
However, supplier Sanofi Pasteur revealed last month that its quadrivalent flu vaccine, recommended for 18 to 64-year-olds, will not be delivered until the end of November due to an ‘unexpected delay’ in manufacturing.