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17 Sep 2013

New Flu Vaccine for Children

Pharmacists in the community can now offer influenza nasal spray vaccine to children and adolescents on a private basis. The NHS started to vaccinate 2 and 3 year olds with this same vaccine in the last few weeks. The vaccine provides protection for the flu season 2013/14 and is suitable for children up to the age of 18 years.

Pharmacists administer the vaccine by spray into each nostril. No injection is necessary. The vaccine takes about 2 weeks to become effective and provides 60% to 100% protection. The nasal spray vaccine, called Fluenz, is a new type of vaccine for flu. Fluenz contains live virus in a weakened form and can produce a very mild flu-like illness. More traditional flu vaccines, given by injection, contain virus material that is not active and cannot cause an infection, even a mild one. The nasal spray vaccine provides better protection in children and adolescents, but is not recommended in adults, where it is a less effective vaccine.

During the coming years the NHS plans to extend annual flu vaccination to all younger school age children. This, it is hoped, will reduce illness in children, but also reduce the transmission of flu through communities. Children are known as super-vectors for the flu, as they tend to have multiple contacts and spread flu infection quickly.

Children who are in contact with severely immunocompromised people are not candidates for Fluenz, as they might spread the weakened virus in the vaccine to vulnerable people.

Pharmacists provide Fluenz vaccination on a private basis. Older children, over 16 years, can self-refer. In most cases parents of younger children will be the ones to decide whether to vaccinate their children. At the moment until NHS funding is available, in most cases, Fluenz vaccination for children over 5 years can only be administered privately with patients or their parents making a payment. The fee is set by pharmacies. In coming years the NHS may sponsor pharmacists to administer the vaccine.

Pharmacists are allowed to administer Fluenz Vaccine, which is normally a prescription only medicine, by a using a set of instructions called a Patient Group Direction (PGD). The PGD specifies which children are eligible for vaccination and which children are excluded. Children with severe asthma or some other medical problems are not eligible. Pharmacists receive specialist training before they are permitted to administer the new nasal spray vaccine. The PGD is provided by Red Box Healthcare Ltd through its website Red Box is the largest provider of PGDs for community pharmacies and is not making a charge for pharmacists to use the new PGD.

Pharmacists can, by arrangement, administer Fluenz to children in schools through the PGD.

Pharmacist can now offer parents the choice to vaccinate their children against flu, where they might not currently have the option through the NHS.

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