Press release | 5.10. 2023

Exemplary practice: Offering flu vaccine in primary schools

Award ceremony at the Dublin onsite visit. Speakers showcasing a certificate.

Celebrating promising practices: Offering flu vaccination in primary schools

The European Health and Digital Executive Agency (HaDEA) rewards the Irish National Immunisation Office for its efforts in the implementation of the study project “Offering the Flu Vaccine to Children in Three Primary Schools”.

This award is part of the pan-European initiative, "Overcoming Obstacles to Vaccination", a three-year project to tackle physical, practical, and administrative obstacles to vaccination. The initiative sets out to identify and assess the impact of obstacles to vaccination; share and pilot best practices; develop recommendations; support EU Member States; and increase vaccination coverage rates. To facilitate this, public health professionals from all Member States of the European Union are invited to onsite visits to familiarise themselves in depth with practices and approaches to reducing barriers to vaccination.

Using criteria developed by the European Commission, health authorities – from across the European Union - submitted interventions they considered promising practices to address obstacles to vaccination. From the numerous submissions, five projects were selected. The project “Offering the Flu Vaccine to Children in Three Primary Schools” is one of them.

Vaccination programme overview

During the 2021-2022 influenza season, Ireland's National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) recommended flu vaccination for children aged 2-17. Despite free vaccines, uptake was relatively low (below 20%) in the community. To address this, the Irish National Immunisation Office conducted a pilot study in collaboration with Community Health Operational (CHO) teams and local schools. Three schools actively participated in the study, which involved 587 children. The study aimed to evaluate the impact of administering the Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine (LAIV) in schools. 

key achievements of the programme:

  • Significant Uptake: The pilot achieved a remarkable increase in flu vaccine uptake within school populations, reaching 63.9%, compared to a mere 12.4% in the community. The overall uptake in the total school populations where LAIV was offered was 76.3% (448 out of 557 children).
  • Enhanced Public Health: The practice significantly contributes to public health efforts by improving vaccine uptake among children, thereby reducing the risk of influenza-related complications and community transmission.
  • Promotion of School-Based Vaccination: The pilot study underscores the potential of school-based vaccination programmes to enhance flu vaccine coverage among children in Ireland, offering valuable insights for future vaccination strategies.
  • Successful Collaboration: The practice demonstrates effective collaboration between the National Immunisation Office, Community Health Operational (CHO) teams, and local primary schools, showcasing the benefits of multi-stakeholder partnerships in public health initiatives.
  • Addressing Vaccine Hesitancy: By identifying and addressing vaccine hesitancy, the practice acknowledges the importance of not only vaccine availability but also community trust and parental consent in achieving high vaccination rates.

The results demonstrate the potential of school-based vaccination programmes to significantly improve flu vaccine uptake among children, contributing to enhanced public health in the community. By utilising the school environment, the pilot programme increased uptake within the participating schools’ populations from 12.4% to 76.3%. This programme highlights the effectiveness of school-based vaccination in improving vaccine uptake and contributes to public health efforts.

Seasonal Flu Awards

In combination with the onsite visit, health authorities and practitioners will celebrate Irelands national annual Flu Awards and the work done across the Irish health service during the 2022-2023 influenza season. The award recognises those who have achieved the highest uptake in their acute hospital setting or long-term care facility. The award will be presented by the Minister for Health and Health Service Executive. This annual ceremony is a way of acknowledging and commending the work of colleagues in driving the uptake of the flu vaccine.