Swine flu jab to be given to healthy children under five
Currently people in priority groups – including young children with asthma or diabetes – are being vaccinated.
But the programme will now be rolled out to children with no underlying health issues, aged over six months and under five .
The UK-wide policy was officially confirmed by the Scottish Government today ahead of a similar announcement in England, expected later.
Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish Health Secretary, said: “I am able to announce today that the next group in the population that will be vaccinated, or offered vaccination, is children aged over six months and under five years.”
The announcement came as it emerged that an 11-year-old girl from Berkshire who had tested positive for the H1N1 virus died on November 11.
NHS figures show that children under 16 are the age group most likely to be admitted to hospital with swine flu, and 21 per cent of deaths in England are among under-14s.
Last week, the death toll in the UK stood at 182, with 124 deaths in England, 33 in Scotland, 11 in Northern Ireland and 14 in Wales.
Currently nine million people in priority groups are being vaccinated against swine flu including those with long-term illnesses and pregnant women. Frontline health and social care workers are also being offered the vaccine.
Britain has ordered enough vaccine for everyone to have two doses, but data from clinical trials has shown that one dose is effective.
Children have been hardest hit by swine flu and are the under fives are the most likely age group to be admitted to hospital with the virus.
Researchers warned that intensive care beds for children could run out in Britain this winter due to swine flu.
All of Britain’s 303 intensive care beds for children could be filled with swine flu patients this winter and this would leave no beds available for children suffering other illness, recovering from surgery or accidents, according to a study conducted by Dr Art Ercole, of Cambridge University and colleagues.
The research was published online ahead of the print edition of the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.
Dr Ercole said over half of admissions to paediatric intensive care units (PICUS) are unplanned and respiratory illness is the second largest cause of admission, accounting for around one in four cases.