fluPublic Health England’s pilot programme to extend flu vaccinations to all children under-11 in selected areas of the country has achieved “encouraging results” in both uptake and impact.

All two and three year olds were offered flu vaccination as a first step in the extension of NHS England’s vaccination programme, while children aged between four and 11 were vaccinated in seven pilot areas in England in 2013 to 2014.

The pilot programme had an overall uptake of 53% with disease incidence lower in test areas compared to non-tested areas. Uptake was highest among the youngest, with a steady decline with increasing age.

Equally, the overall positive swab test rate in pilot areas was 8.5% compared with 16.2% in non-pilot areas, with a consistent pattern for all three age groups (toddlers, infants, under-11s).

Feasibility of general population vaccination programme
Study author Dr Richard Pebody said: “These early, first season findings, which are consistent across a range of surveillance indicators, highlight the apparent value of vaccinating primary school children. The encouraging uptake levels achieved in most pilot areas demonstrate the feasibility of delivering such a programme in this population.

“Despite this season being of relatively low intensity, these early findings already suggest a likely impact of vaccinating school-age children on levels of circulating flu, which is encouraging for the ongoing roll-out.”

The overall proportion of Accident and Emergency department attendances was 5.5% in pilot areas compared to 8.7% in non-pilot areas. The number of confirmed flu hospitalisations reported was 5.5 per 100,000 population in pilot areas, also down on the average of 7.0 per 100,000 in non-pilot areas .

Further reading: H4H urges hand hygiene to reduce spread of family flu 

The target population was defined as children of primary school age (4 to 11 years-old) resident in seven pilot areas: Bury, Cumbria, Gateshead, Leicester City and Rutland, Havering and Newham boroughs (in London) and South East Essex, covering about 5% of the population of this age in England.

From September 2014 vaccination against flu will be offered to all children aged 2-4. The geographical pilots established in 2013/14 will continue and a number of additional pilots for secondary school children aged 11-12 will also begin in some areas.

To find out more visit www.gov.uk/phe