New vaccine plans target flu in infants

happy child New vaccines schedules from the DH and Public Health England include offering a nasal flu vaccine for all children aged two years in England from September.

The NHS will also vaccinate primary school and pre-school aged children from 2014, and secondary school aged children from 2015.

New vaccination programmes for rotavirus, shingles and meningitis C are also planned in the strongest demonstration to date of the priority of disease prevention in the new public health system.

Providing the nasal flu vaccine to all children aged two years, in time for the late autumn seasonal outbreaks, will protect some 650,000 infants.

In addition, babies aged less than four months will be vaccinated against rotavirus – a common cause of diarrhoea and vomiting in infants – from July.

It is estimated that the vaccine will halve the number of cases of rotavirus infection in infants (currently 140,000 per year).

According to Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at Public Health England, the introduction of oral rotavirus vaccine “has had a major impact” on protecting young children from the disease”, resulting in “rapid and sustained reductions in childhood rotavirus hospitalisations”.

At the opposite end of the age scale, an NHS shingles vaccination programme for people aged 70 is planned from September, as well as a catch-up programme for those aged up to 79.

The two programmes will protect some 800,000 elderly people this year from a disease that can cause prolonged neuralgia and disability.

A US study found that vaccinating adults aged 70 or older halved the incidence of shingles and reduced post-herpetic neuralgia by 40%.

Vaccination against meningitis C is also changing from September: a new booster jab at age 12–13 will replace the current booster at four months.