AROUND a million children in Scotland will be offered a vaccine to protect them against flu every year once a new vaccination programme is fully introduced, officials have said.
The Scottish Government has announced how plans to vaccinate all under-18s will be rolled out, with the first groups getting their vaccine later this year.
Under the scheme, all children aged two and three will be offered immunisation against flu from this winter, along with a selection of primary schools in every health board area which will take part in a pilot programme.
The programme will then be rolled out more widely over the next two years, with children at all primary schools and selected secondary schools being offered immunisation from 2014, and all children aged two to 17 being offered the flu vaccine from the end of 2015.
Plans to offer children the flu vaccine, first announced last year, come as doctors prepare to provide a range of other vaccinations following advice from immunisation experts.
The changes to the winter flu campaign, which normally only targets older people and those with chronic health conditions, follows advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) which advises UK governments.
Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer Sir Harry Burns said: “Flu is a serious illness and the extension of the flu vaccination programme will protect those children who receive the vaccine, and will help to protect against the spread of flu.
“The vaccine offers excellent protection against those types of flu virus that are most likely to be circulating each winter, protecting your child from a nasty illness that could end up with them having treatment in hospital.
“The immunisation is safe, quick and painless and has been used in a number of other countries, including the US, for many years.
“In addition, it is important that those people who are in the clinical at risk groups for flu immunisation continue to be vaccinated to protect themselves against the virus.”
The vaccine for children will be administered using a nasal spray, delivered by a combination of schools and GP practices. It is said to offer better protection to children against flu than the previous injectable vaccine.
The roll-out of the child flu vaccination campaign will see around 120,000 two and three-year-olds and around 100,000 primary school aged children in Scotland offered the vaccine during the 2013/14 flu season.
By 2015, around one million children across Scotland aged between two and 17 will have the chance to be immunised.
Parents of eligible children will be sent a letter from their child’s school or GP practice offering them the jab.