A nasal spray flu vaccine for children is being introduced in Wales, as part of the NHS childhood vaccination program. In the UK, influenza is still a significant cause of death in the winter months despite programs to encourage vulnerable groups to have an annual vaccination.
In Wales the plan is to offer the annual vaccine, Fluenz made by AstraZeneca, to all children from the age of two and to initially target 100,000 children. It’s believed the vaccine has two distinct advantages for children. The first is that it is more effective in children than the traditional injectable vaccine. Second, being needle-free, it’s likely to cause less upset. The nasal vaccine is given as a nasal spray squirted up each nostril.
Initially the program in Wales intends to offer the vaccine to two and three-year-olds at their doctors surgery, and 11 and 12-year-old pupils who will be offered it in schools. A vaccine administered in this way is believed to better protect the individual and offers potentially better “herd immunity”. This is a particularly important consideration when trying to protect other vulnerable groups such as infants, the elderly and children with long term health issues such as diabetes.
Children generally are of course particularly vulnerable to flu as they are less aware of good hygiene regimes. They also suffer the same symptoms as adults including fever, chills, aching muscles, headache and a dry cough. By targeting children in this way it’s hoped it reduce the chance of flu spreading. Other vulnerable group such as the over 65s and children with long term health issues will continue to be offer the injectable version of the flu vaccine.
In the UK as a whole the eventual plan is for all children between the ages of two and 16 to be vaccinated against flu each year using the new nasal spray vaccine.