Public Health England News and Media

07 Nov 2019

Update on the childhood flu vaccination programme

AstraZeneca has advised that there will be a delay in their delivery of some batches of the childhood nasal spray flu vaccine that were due to arrive in November. Public Health England is working closely with NHS England and Improvement and the Department of Health and Social Care to ensure that all eligible children receive their flu vaccination as soon as possible.  

GPs have been advised to prioritise all those under 18 years of age who are in at-risk groups, followed by younger children aged two and three. This will help ensure that the most vulnerable children are protected first. The flu virus starts circulating at different times each year, but typically begins towards the end of December/early January. 

Today’s announcement means that some schools will need to reschedule vaccination sessions planned for mid-November. Clinics will be rescheduled as soon as possible and children in high risk groups are advised to visit their GP if their school session is delayed, to ensure that they are protected early.

The children's programme has been underway since October, and the majority of this year’s flu vaccine has already been released. The amount of stock expected to be delivered overall remains sufficient to vaccinate all eligible children who present for vaccination but these delays affect around a quarter of the overall vaccine that has been ordered.

Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at Public Health England, said:

“We are working with AstraZeneca and NHS England and Improvement to ensure that all eligible children get their flu vaccine as soon as possible. Children who have underlying medical conditions that make them more vulnerable to flu will be prioritised by GPs first.”

The delay only relates to some batches of Fluenz Tetra (Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine - LAIV) vaccine stocks, caused by AstraZeneca’s routine testing process.  This is not related to the safety or the efficacy of the vaccine itself.

The delay does not impact on the injectable flu vaccine being delivered in GP surgeries and pharmacies. The adult flu programme is well underway and PHE is reminding all those aged 65 and over, pregnant women and adults with underlying medical conditions to visit their GP or pharmacist to get their flu vaccine.

Laurent Abuaf, Country President AstraZeneca UK said:

“We realise how important it is to deliver a full supply of vaccine to the NHS and are doing everything possible to minimise the delay of these affected batches. As part of our normal product release process, we need to repeat some tests before a portion of our vaccine supply can be released and delivered. It is paramount that all batches complete the testing process before they can be supplied, and we are working as fast as possible to achieve this. We are committed to working in partnership with Public Health England and the Department of Health and Social Care to support the earliest possible delivery of all the nasal spray vaccine needed for the NHS childhood seasonal flu immunisation programme.”


Contact Information

Georgia Adebowale

Notes to editors

Notes to Editors:

  1. The amount of stock expected to be delivered overall remains sufficient to vaccinate all eligible children who present for vaccination.
  2. Fluenz Tetra cannot be stockpiled in advance because the components of the vaccine change every year and it has a very short shelf life.
  3. The delay relates to Fluenz Tetra (Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine) vaccine stocks that were due to arrive in November, and is due to an issue detected during routine product release processes. Some of these tests did not run correctly and are being repeated before the vaccine is released by the independent regulator. The issue is not due to safety or the efficacy of the vaccine itself, which has passed all the other tests. No other batches of the vaccine, including those already in use by schools and GPs, have been affected. The testing process is external to PHE and is part of the routine process of ensuring the consistency of each batch of vaccine before they are released.
  4. Some planned flu vaccine clinics in primary schools where vaccine stocks are not already held by the teams delivering the programme will need to be rescheduled.
  5. PHE and NHS E/I are prioritising vulnerable children. If locally, a school or GP is unable to offer Fluenz to a high-risk child, they should receive the injected vaccine instead, to avoid delay in being protected.
  6. The majority of children will receive the nasal spray vaccine in school. This season, all primary school aged children are eligible. Children aged 2 and 3 (on 31 August 2019) and those in clinical risk groups may receive the vaccine through their GP.
  7. Children and young people who are eligible for a flu vaccine include those aged two and three years, children of primary school age, carers, those who are pregnant and those in a clinical risk groups including those with:
  • Chronic neurological disease
  • Chronic respiratory disease
  • Chronic heart disease
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Diabetes
  • Immunosuppression
  • Asplenia or dysfunction of the spleen