The NHS is to begin vaccinating healthy children under the age of five against swine flu, it has been confirmed.
The programme is to be extended to children with no underlying health issues, aged over six months and under five. At the moment, people in priority groups, such as young children with diabetes or asthma, are being vaccinated.
Scottish health secretary Nicola Sturgeon, confirming the UK-wide policy, said: “I am able to announce that the next group in the population that will be vaccinated, or offered vaccination, is children aged over six months and under five years.”
Sir Liam Donaldson, commenting on the decision, said “Our first priority is to ensure that people with clinical risk factors,and frontline health and social care staff are vaccinated.
“Protecting those most at risk from the disease will reduce the levels of serious illness, and deaths. That’s why we will shortly offer the vaccine to young children.
“Vaccination remains a personal choice, but I urge everyone who is offered the vaccine to accept it and protect themselves. While the risks of serious complications from flu may be small, the impact on those affected can be devastating.”
A fifth (21%) of the deaths from swine flu in England are among under-14s, while NHS figures also show that under-16s are the age group most likely to be hospitalised by the virus.