The flu vaccination programme will expand this autumn to offer all secondary school pupils in England a free vaccine, the Government has confirmed.
This will mean over three million pupils are offered a nasal spray vaccine from 1 September.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has previously recommended this expansion due to the benefits of both protecting this cohort and indirectly protecting the wider population.
Plans for this year’s seasonal flu vaccination campaign were set out by NHS England in May, with eligible cohorts focussed on the over-65s, younger at-risk groups, pregnant women, and a target of 75% of front-line healthcare workers.
Low-risk 50-64-year-olds were not included for this year, having been eligible only as part of temporary expansion during the pandemic.
The decision on secondary school pupils, announced today, was due to follow at a later date.
The vaccinations will be undertaken by NHS school aged immunisation services rather than GP practices.
Excess deaths in England associated with flu infection were higher this past year, at 14,500, than the average figure (13,500) for the five years before the pandemic, according to the UK Health Security Agency’s (UKHSA) analysis of the 2022/23 flu season.
Health minister Maria Caulfield said: ‘Expanding the offer of flu vaccination to all secondary school pupils this winter will provide millions of young people with extra protection.
‘Importantly, this will also reduce the risk of transmission to more vulnerable groups, including the elderly, reducing hospitalisations and freeing up bed capacity across the NHS.’
NHS director of vaccinations and screening Steve Russell said: ‘The vaccine offers vital protection against flu which can cause nasty symptoms, and I would urge all young people and parents to make sure they join millions of others who get vaccinated each year to take up the offer when they can – it’s quick, easy and offered in schools, so there’s really no reason to delay when you receive the offer.’
GP data for the 2022/23 flu season showed vaccine uptake of 79.9% in those aged 65 and over compared with 82.3% last year and 80.9% in 2020/21.