All UK children to be offered flu vaccine

 Annual influenza vaccinations will be offered to all children aged two to 17 in the UK from 2014.

A nasal spray of the Fluenz vaccine will be used rather than an injectable form, except with children in high-risk groups.

The vaccination programme – the first of its kind in the world – is predicted to save 2,000 lives per year given only moderate uptake (30%).

As well as saving many children’s lives it could protect non-vaccinated people, especially elderly family members, through the ‘herd immunity’ effect.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said the vaccine would be offered to nine million children in the UK, more than doubling the number of vaccinations available.

According to the Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Dame Sally Davies, if only 30% of these children receive the vaccine there will be 11,000 fewer hospital admissions and 2,000 fewer deaths.

The vaccination will be optional and will depend primarily on GP surgeries, as there are too few school nurses to deliver the programme.

AstraZeneca’s Fluenz is a live attenuated vaccine sold in the US as FluMist. The UK contract could be worth £100m a year to the company.

Vaccinating children could also protect vulnerable family members, including babies and the elderly – an effect known as ‘herd immunity’.