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700,000 pupils to be given flu spray: Children are virus superspreaders, say officials

Pupils will be vaccinated with a nasal spray this winter in a bid to stop the spread of flu.

Some 700,000 children in England aged five to 17 will be offered the treatment in what will be the biggest school immunisation pilot for 30 years.

Last year, the spray – called Fluenz – was offered to all children aged two and three but this year it will also be pitched to parents of all four-year-olds.

And Public Health England (PHE) will trial the larger programme in primary and secondary schools to immunise pupils

Dr Nick Phin, head of flu at PHE, said: ‘This is an ambitious campaign but with good reason, because studies have shown children are “superspreaders” of the flu virus.

When they sneeze, they often won’t have a handkerchief or wash their hands, and protecting them will help to protect their parents, siblings and grandparents.

‘The pilot of 700,000 schoolchildren is to identify and iron out any issues we may have with the programme.’

Although for most people flu is an unpleasant inconvenience, for others it can be deadly. Flu contributed to an estimated 8,000 deaths in England last year, mostly thought to be the elderly or infirm, or those with conditions such as asthma.

Dr Paul Cosford, medical director at PHE, described the spray as a ‘quick, easy and painless’ way to prevent children catching flu and spreading it to others who are more vulnerable.

He added: ‘People with certain long-term health conditions are at much greater risk of becoming seriously unwell if they catch flu and sadly, many end up in hospital.’

The Government is today launching a major campaign to encourage adults to take advantage of the free flu jab.

Pregnant women, parents of young children and those with health problems are among those being targeted by officials.

Last year only half of those eligible for the injection took up the offer. The Government’s chief medical officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, said: ‘I would urge those offered the free flu vaccination to visit their GP early in the flu season.’

The school nasal spray vaccination pilot is being run by 12 local authorities in the North East, the Midlands, Yorkshire, East Anglia and Sussex. Parents will receive letters inviting them to let their children receive Fluenz from the school nurse.

Doctors think the nasal spray has great potential to encourage uptake among children averse to needles.

However, it costs twice as much as the flu jab, with the cost of immunising all children in England estimated to be £100million a year.

The last time there was such a large-scale school immunisation pilot here was in 1984 when the BCG was introduced to fight TB.

Report by The Mail Online (Source Link)