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Expanding the autumn flu campaign: 6 key areas of concern to address

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Many expect Public Health England to expand the autumn flu campaign again this year – from 8 year groups in 20/21, to 12 in 21/22. This is in line with recent changes in PHE policy, which we are working to align ourselves with – to ensure no child is left behind, and to give every child the best start in life.

 

In order to be ready to extend the autumn flu programme, we’ve isolated 6 questions that school immunisation providers need to answer:

  • Expanding the autumn flu campaign: can you cope with the extra organisation?
  • What uptake will be required, and what support is available, to help expand the autumn flu campaign?
  • Most of the children are in the system already, why do we need re-consent for extending the autumn flu programme?
  • What’s best practice for school immunisation in the shadow of COVID-19?
  • What support is there for submitting data to NHS Digital and PHE throughout the extension of the autumn flu programme?
  • Will school children get COVID 19 vaccinations simultaneously to the autumn flu shot?

Keep reading to find out more about the schools’ flu immunisation 2021.

Expanding the autumn flu campaign: can you cope with the extra organisation?

The expected change marks an increase in workload of 50% for school nurses.

infographic showing expected levels of autumn flu vaccine in uk schools 2021

Although a significant increase in number of students, expanding the autumn flu campaign to cover all school-age children is essential to PHE’s tenets of best start in life and no child left behind, especially in the wake of COVID.

Furthermore, whilst the schools’ flu vaccination 2021 schedule covers several year-groups that weren’t previously included, there are already dialogues in place between service providers and schools. Providers built these channels through last year’s expansion of the autumn flu campaign, and staples in immunisation such as HPV and MMR.

Nevertheless, there are concerns about exactly how much extra work will accompany this extension of the autumn flu campaign. Further; traditional, paper-based, systems might struggle keeping pace with this increase. Many are now questioning if the current infrastructure is suitable for a project of this scale. Arguably, this is a prime reason that PHE are pushing toward modernising the Healthy Child Programme.

What uptake will be required, and what support is available, to help expand the autumn flu campaign?

Commissioners and providers set uptake targets at local levels. Targets typically vary based on age-group, and how long the vaccine programme has been running. However, they are usually 55-64%.

Table of vaccination uptake rates from years 2015-2020 for schoolchildren in UKTaken from: Flu vaccination 2020 to 2021 Programme briefing for schools

Electronic management systems are a key piece of support, significantly reducing administerial requirements. Parents can record their consent in the system as soon as they’ve read the email. Or, to save printing costs, PHE literature can be distributed by email.

Most of the children are in the system already, why do we need re-consent for extending the autumn flu programme?

Some children may already be in the system from prior school flu vaccines. However, consent forms also contain triage questions – which are crucial to help ensure a safe schools’ flu vaccinations 2021.

That said, there’s no need to distribute questionnaires on paper. As long as the answers are recorded appropriately, you can note them in any way.

Please note: guidelines stipulate that some year 11s are able to provide consent for themselves. Only those under the age of 16 require “informed consent” from parents.

What’s best practice for school immunisation in the shadow of COVID-19?

There’s little conclusive research on this subject yet. However, with PHE making broad moves towards modernising the Healthy Child Programme, and pushing the importance of data driven decision making, electronic management software seems like the logical next step.

London borough Lewisham experimented, blending electronic and traditional distribution of immunisation materials. It’d been trialled in the 19/20 Flu campaign to great success. Of the 15,000 children inoculated in Lewisham, 60% had consent submitted electronically.

Lewisham used electronic forms as a safety-net for parents who missed the paper versions. This double-pronged approach aims for no child left behind. The potential monetary and time savings are important considerations for nursing providers when expanding the autumn flu campaign further.

Read more about our work in eConsent and automated School Immunisation admin here.

What support is there for submitting data to NHS Digital and PHE throughout the extension of the autumn flu programme?

The NHS Digital data requirements are subject to change at any time. Last year, NIVS changed data requirements days before the deadline, catching many providers off-guard.

It’s difficult to predict exactly when, or how, the requirements will change. But luckily, we champion data driven decision making.

Fully integrated with NHS Digital and SystmOne, we standardise our reporting of immunisation data. Meaning if there are changes at the eleventh hour, we‘re on hand to help out.

Will school children get COVID 19 vaccines simultaneously to the autumn flu shot?

As yet, the government hasn’t released guidance regarding this matter. However, we can assume that SARS-CoV-2 vaccine doses distributed alongside expanding the autumn flu campaign will be awarded according to national supplies and population-wide immunisation rates.

With that said, the current lack of guidance concerning COVID immunisation at a school-level does place a burden on care providers to be ready for the changes – whatever they may be.

To find out more about eConsent and automated School Immunisation admin, please click here.

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