- Over 3 million secondary school pupils to be offered nasal spray vaccine from 1 September
- Expansion provides direct protection to pupils and indirect protection to wider community
- Getting flu vaccine helps protect you and your loved ones, while reducing pressure on the NHS
All secondary school pupils in England will be offered a free flu vaccine from September for the 2023 to 2024 season, the government has confirmed. An initial list of groups eligible for this year’s vaccine was first announced in May, with a note that a decision on secondary school pupils would follow at a later date.
Now, the government has confirmed it is expanding the programme to over 3 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:
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 claimed to be 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 age immunisation services (SAIS) 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 previously announced.
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, UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA):
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:
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.
Nasal spray or injection?
Most children are offered a nasal spray vaccine which is quick and easy to administer and offers the best protection for children. A small number of children cannot have the nasal spray because of medical conditions or treatments. They can be offered protection through an injected vaccine instead.
Recent interim analysis of the 2022 to 2023 flu season indicated that excess deaths in England associated with flu infection were higher (14,500) than the average figure (13,500) for the 5 years before the pandemic.
The addition to the 2023 to 2024 flu letter confirming the expansion to secondary schools is available at: National flu immunisation programme plan 2023 to 2024.
As with other standard school immunisations, the flu vaccine will be delivered by SAIS providers, with teams of clinical staff including paediatric nurses and school nurses running clinics in schools on set days.
In line with national guidance, consent letters are sent out to parents and guardians prior to the school clinics with information on the flu vaccination.
Parents and young people are asked to read the patient information in advance of arriving for their appointment.
Staff will be working hard to offer the flu vaccine to all children in this age group in schools as quickly as possible.
For those not attending school, such as those home schooled, parents and young people can book in for their flu vaccine with their GP or at a community clinic.
Who is entitled to a free flu vaccine?
The following is the full list of those eligible for a free flu vaccine:
- those aged 65 years and over
- those aged 6 months to under 65 years in clinical risk groups (as defined by the Green Book, chapter 19 (influenza))
- pregnant women
- all children aged 2 or 3 years on 31 August 2023
- primary school aged children (from reception to year 6)
- all secondary school pupils in years 7 to 11
- those in long-stay residential care homes
- carers in receipt of carer’s allowance, or those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person
- close contacts of immunocompromised individuals
- frontline workers in a social care setting without an employer led occupational health scheme including those working for a registered residential care or nursing home, registered domiciliary care providers, voluntary managed hospice providers and those that are employed by those who receive direct payments (personal budgets) or personal health budgets, such as personal assistants