In an update from the UK government in July 2023 it was announced that over 3 million secondary school pupils will be offered a free flu vaccine for the 2023/2024 season. Although an initial list of eligible groups was released in May, the government had indicated an intention to decide on secondary school pupils later. It has now confirmed that the programme will include all secondary school pupils in years 7 to 11. The vaccine will be offered as a nasal spray from September.  

This decision aligns with a “long-standing” recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). This recommendation identifies the direct benefits of protecting school-aged children and the indirect benefits for the wider population. As announced in May, all primary school children and infants between the ages of 2 and 3 will also be offered the vaccine.  

Extra protection 

Beyond the obvious benefits to the pupils receiving the vaccine, this inclusion of more young people will provide others in the community with additional protection. Maria Caulfield, Health Minister, commented that it will “reduce the risk of transmission to more vulnerable groups”, thus 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.”  

NHS Director of Vaccinations and Screening, Steve Russell, said that last winter emphasised “how quickly flu can spread within communities”. He is “pleased” that the vaccination offer is being extended to secondary school children.  

“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.”  

UKHSA’s Head of Immunisation is Dr Mary Ramsay, who emphasises that 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.”  

Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, agreed that enabling children to attend school “as much as possible” after the “disruption” of the pandemic, is important.  

“Today’s announcement will not only protect children’s health but also their education.” 

Are you included in your national flu immunisation programme? Will you be taking the flu jab this year? 

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