According to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), extending protection to all school-age children is “highly likely to be cost effective and well within accepted cost effectiveness thresholds.”
The JCVI also recommended extending the programme to children aged two to four years, though this age group are at less risk and so the overall benefit could be “relatively small”.
The decision reflects concern about the ease with which flu spreads through schools, and awareness that the ‘herd immunity’ effect of vaccinating more vulnerable people can protect the whole population.
It follows the decision in April to offer all children aged two years in England a nasal flu vaccine from September 2013.
The new vaccination programme could not be implemented until autumn 2014 or later, the JCVI said, and will need an extensive public information campaign as well as time to “ensure the large-scale supply, storage and distribution of vaccine”.
The vaccinations for children aged 5–16 should be delivered in schools, while younger children can be vaccinated in clinics or GP practices.
Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer, said the recommendations would be followed, but noted: “There are significant challenges to delivering a programme that requires up to nine million children to be vaccinated during a six-week period.
“We will look at the recommendations in detail to decide how best to develop and deliver the programme.”