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Staff must administer flu vaccine by Christmas

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GP practices and immunisation clinics only have until Christmas to vaccinate all two- and three-year-olds against influenza.

Two- and three-year-olds have been added to the vaccination schedule beginning in September and the programme also includes pilot projects in some areas to offer the vaccine to all four- to ten-year-olds.

The recommended vaccine for children is a single dose of Fluenz® (or two doses for those at risk from flu). However, Fluenz® has a shorter shelf life than other flu vaccines, and stocks will expire by 16 January, according to NHS England's winter flu plan.

The plan states that: 'In the light of this it will be important to ensure that efforts are made to vaccinate children before the Christmas holidays'.

Coverage of target groups with the seasonal flu vaccine was only 50 per cent last year, but the DH aims to reach 75 per cent this year, despite the extension of the target groups. Uptake among children at risk was particularly low last year.

Helen Donovan, the RCN's public health adviser, said: 'One of the key indicators will be whether there are enough trained staff to deliver the vaccine and whether staff have the right supervision.

'Nurses will need to have a depth of knowledge so they can explain the rationale and projected side effects to parents.

'This is a live vaccine. We know from previous problems that unless staff have the knowledge, public trust in vaccinations can easily go the other way.

'It's quite an easy vaccine to give, nasal drops rather than injection, but two- to three-year-olds always need a little careful handling. They are old enough to know that something's happening but not old enough to understand it's for their own good.They need to sit on a parent's lap.'

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