As part of plans to reduce outbreaks of disease, the Government is set to offer millions more vaccinations including universal flu jabs for toddlers a year earlier than planned.

The Department of Health is planning to give a flu vaccination to every two-year-old via nasal spray from this year, with a national roll-out for all school children to follow.

First free flu vaccine worldwide
The move makes the UK the first country to offer the flu vaccine to healthy children free of charge. Around 650,000 toddlers will be protected in the first year, while all primary and secondary school children will start get the spray from 2015.

Professor David Salisbury, director of immunisation at the Department of Health, said the new vaccines will "protect our most vulnerable against potentially harmful diseases".

“We already have a world class vaccination programme in place, which saves millions of lives each year, so I’m pleased that we will be able to protect even more people against disease starting later this year,” he added.

Most common cause of gastroenteritis
Babies under four months will also get an injection to shield them from diarrhoea bug called rotavirus that can hospitalise up to 14,000 infants a year.

Almost every child will have had the viral infection by the age of five, making it the most common cause of gastroenteritis in babies and toddlers.

Mass immunisation programme
The mass immunisation programme is estimated to lead to 11,000 fewer hospital admissions and 2,000 fewer deaths every year.

It comes as ministers are facing criticism for the number of people who are not protected against measles following a recent outbreak that started in Wales.

The number of cases in the epidemic is expected to pass 1,000 when official figures are published today, with those aged between 10 and 18 at greatest risk of infection.

MMR catch-up campaign
Public health officials have had to launch a “catch-up” campaign to prevent the spread of the disease, as many children in this age group have not been vaccinated.

Measles cases are now at their highest level for almost two decades. Thousands of children have been vaccinated across Wales over the last few weeks, while England has announced its own £20 million vaccination programme.

Booster jobs for meningitis
Children are currently vaccinated against around ten conditions, including measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, diptheria and polio.

Separately, the Department of Health revealed it will change the current arrangements for protecting people against meningitis C, giving teenagers a booster jab at age 12, rather than one at four months.