Published Wednesday, 04 September 2013
The flu vaccine is now being offered as a nasal spray for children. (© UTV)
Health Minister Edwin Poots announced the first phase of the vaccination programme will begin in October.
This will see children aged two and three years old being offered vaccination by their GPs, and primary six children being offered vaccination by the school health service.
"Children in at risk groups, such as those with asthma, heart conditions or cerebral palsy, are already eligible to receive the flu vaccine from their own GP," Minister Poots said.
"Next year it is intended to offer the flu vaccine to all pre-school and primary school children and from the autumn of 2015 to all children aged two to 16 inclusive.
"I would urge all parents and guardians of eligible children to take up this offer of free flu vaccination whenever the programme begins this autumn."
The JCVI, a body of independent experts who advise the four UK Health Ministers, looked at the evidence around extending the flu vaccination programme.
The experts concluded that while there are significant challenges involved in extending the programme, they are outweighed by the health benefits that a comprehensive immunisation programme could bring.
The children's flu programme will use a nasal spray vaccine.
Education Minister John O'Dowd added: "The school health service within the trusts will be issuing letters to parents or guardians seeking their permission to vaccinate their children.
"I would ask all parents to respond as quickly as possible to these letters and get their children vaccinated against the flu."
Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride explained that seasonal flu can be serious for those in at risk groups.
"We accept the advice of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) that rolling out a wider programme could protect children and help to further protect our most vulnerable members of society," he commented.
"I would however still urge those in an at risk group including pregnant women to take up the offer of vaccination whenever they are called by their GP."
© UTV News