GPs have been asked to increase their efforts to provide influenza vaccinations to preschool children, in a letter outlining the national flu immunisation programme for 2018/19.
The letter, issued by the Department of Health and Social Care, Public Health England and NHS England, announced that the programme would be extended to children in year five of primary school.
This would mean that all children aged two to nine would be covered from the 31 August 2018, with two and three year olds being offered the vaccinations through GP practices and those aged four to nine being vaccinated through their schools.
However, the letter also asked that ‘increased effort is given to the vaccination of preschool children as uptake is not as high as in schools’, with under fives having the ‘highest rate of hospital admissions for flu of all age groups’.
The flu vaccination uptake targets for 2018/19 were stated as similar to previous years, with a 75% goal for eligible adults and an interim ambition of 75% for at-risk groups.
For children, the targets of at least 48% and 65% have been set for preschool and school age children respectively.
The lower aim for preschool children was specified to reflect the difficulty in achieving uptake in general practice, when compared to school schemes.
This guidance follows confusion earlier this year around flu vaccination orders, which led to NHS England issuing a freeze on all practice orders before changing their initial instruction.
GPs have since been told to offer the adjuvanted trivalent vaccine for all 65s and over and the quadrivalent vaccine for at-risk patients between the ages of 18 and 64.