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Lay people set to administer child flu vaccines

Lay people could administer flu vaccinations to children, as part of the DH’s major extension of the flu vaccination programme.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley announced today that an intranasal flu vaccination should be administered on the NHS to all children aged two years and over, and not just those in at-risk groups.

The details of how the programme is to be run is yet to be determined, but DH advisers have recommended that GPs should vaccinate all pre-school children and a schools-based programme should look after the over-fives.

But due to a shortage of school nurses, they are looking at the possibility of using ‘lay people’ to administer the vaccines.

Draft minutes from their last meeting in June said: ‘The committee considered that as there are too few school nurses currently available to achieve high vaccine uptake in school children, alternative arrangements would need to be explored.’

‘Advice would be sought from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency on whether live attenuated intranasal influenza vaccine can be administered by lay persons.’

‘Vaccination of pre-school children would also need to be delivered by GPs in addition to the influenza vaccinations under the current programme.’

Dr Jane Lothian, medical secretary of Northumberland LMC, said using trained lay people was a sensible option given there was little resources in primary care for a mass vaccination programme.

She said: ‘So long as appropriate protocols were in place, such as safeguards for any adverse reactions and knowledge of the correct parental process then I don’t see why properly trained lay people shouldn’t administer it, particularly as it’s not an injection.’

But Dr John Hughes, vice-chair of Manchester LMC, said the logistics of the programme had to be thought out carefully.

He said: ‘They’re trying to do things on the cheap. GPs could do it much more efficiently, but we’d expect a LES. We’d expect to be paid, as it’s outside our contract.

‘During the last flu pandemic the patients left to the GPs were vaccinated efficiently. But for house-bound patients whose vaccines were be organised by the PCT it took them months of training up people, organising vaccinators.

‘The most vulnerable people got left to the last minute. That can’t happen again.’

A spokesperson for the MHRA said: ‘We are working with the DH to explore what options are available for safe delivery of the programme.’