All secondary school pupils in England will be offered a free flu vaccine from September for the 2023/24 season, the government has confirmed.
The government has confirmed it is expanding the programme to over three million pupils in secondary school years 7 to 11, who will be offered the vaccine as a nasal spray through their school’s vaccination programme from 1 September.
The expansion gives direct protection to pupils receiving the vaccine and provides indirect protection to more vulnerable groups by reducing the spread of the virus.
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.
Last winter we saw the devastating impact this illness can have, so it is important all pupils take up the offer of the flu vaccine to protect themselves and their loved ones from falling unwell.
The decision to expand the programme is in line with a long-standing recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which highlights the benefits of directly protecting school-aged children from flu, and the indirect benefits to the wider population.
NHS school aged immunisation services will be undertaking the vaccinations from September during the autumn term.
All primary school children and infants aged 2 and 3 will also be offered the flu vaccine, as announced in May.
Eligible groups are urged to take up the offer from September before the flu season begins, to give themselves the best possible protection in winter.
NHS Director of Vaccinations and Screening, Steve Russell, said:
Last winter we saw how quickly flu can spread within communities, so I’m pleased to see the flu vaccination offer being extended to secondary school children in the autumn term.
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.
Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation, UKHSA, said:
Getting the flu vaccine offers the best protection against the virus. It is important everyone eligible takes up the offer, including secondary school pupils as they can fall very sick. Last year we saw some teenagers hospitalised with flu.
Expanding the vaccination to secondary school pupils will help to reduce flu from being spread, protecting their friends and family and easing the burden on the NHS.
Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, said:
Following the disruption caused by the pandemic, it’s important that children are able to attend school as much as possible.
We know that school attendance levels drop over the winter months due to illness, which is why today’s announcement will not only protect children’s health but also their education.