Four-year-old children in England are being offered a free influenza vaccination on the NHS for the first time as part of the annual national programme, which kicked off on 6 October 2014. The children will be given the vaccination as a nasal spray.
The programme was expanded in 2013 to include all children aged two to three years. Vaccinations are also being offered to children and adults in at-risk groups, pregnant women and anybody aged over 65 years. These groups are being advised to contact their community pharmacist or GP to arrange vaccination.
Uptake has traditionally been high in the over 65s where some 75% come forward for immunisation. But uptake in other groups last year was lower – 40% among pregnant women, 40% for children aged two to three years and 52% for patients aged six months to 65 years who had an underlying chronic condition such as asthma or diabetes or a weakened immune system.
In Scotland, the annual flu vaccination campaign began on 1 October 2014. For the first time, all children aged between two years and five years will be offered the vaccine. School children in years primary one to primary seven will also be vaccinated in October and November 2014.
The flu programme begins in Wales on 9 October 2014. All children aged between two years and four years on 31 August 2014 will be offered the vaccine for the first time. Children aged 11–12 years in year seven will also be offered the vaccine as part of plans by the Welsh government to introduce a children’s national vaccination programme.