Introducing the childhood flu programme - Tracy Beswick

So we are part-way through the 2014 Flu Immunisation season and I know nurses across the country are busy offering vaccinations to those in need such as the over 65 years and people in clinical risk groups.

However, over the last year our approach to flu immunisations has changed to include an extensive programme offering vaccinations to healthy children. In July 2012 the Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisation (JCVI) recommended vaccinating all children aged 2-16 years against flu. This is a new approach to reducing the burden of flu across the population, as by vaccinating all healthy children, not only are the children themselves protected but so too is the likely transmission of flu across the population interrupted.

So where are we with this programme? 2013 saw the start of the phased introduction of the childhood flu programme with all 2 and 3 year olds being offered vaccination through primary care or general practice, with pilots in 7 areas offering vaccination to all children of primary school age.

In 2014, all 2-4 year olds are being offered vaccination and the school pilot programme extended to include 12 pilot areas for secondary school aged children (11 and 12 year olds). So the chances are that the school based programme may not have reached your local area yet but that is likely to change for 2015 onwards as we expect – subject to successful outcome of section 7a negotiation - that all Key Stage 1 pupils (5 and 6 year olds) will be vaccinated predominantly in primary school settings.

There have been some fabulous materials developed to support this work and I am really pleased to see some of the excellent public health materials that children are getting involved with, such as the e bug materials which makes learning fun and accessible; the Flu Fighter digital badge missions that young people can take and earn, developing evidence over a series of missions; as well as a song developed

and a fabulous cartoon developed in Leicestershire and Rutland aimed at primary school children giving information on the influenza vaccine

All this work wouldn’t be possible without the vital role that School Nurses and partners have in increasing the uptake of immunisations and improving population health. We have a huge commitment to protecting children and I would like to extend my thanks to all partners who are contributing the childhood flu and wider school nursing programmes.

 Tracy Beswick is the lead on Childhood Flu – Workforce Development Project at  the Department of Health

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