Years 7 and 8 school children across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent will be offered a free nasal spray vaccine against the common cold as part of NHS England's pilot immunisation scheme in partnership with Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Partnership NHS Trust and local schools.
In preparation for the winter months ahead, the free nasal spray should be available in schools from the end of September.
Flu is a highly contagious illness that spreads rapidly through the coughs and sneezes of people who are carrying the virus. Immunising all school children in years 7 and 8 should help stop the spread of the virus through the school, and to friends and family members who may be more vulnerable to its effects.
The Fluenz immunisation is a simple, painless nasal spray that protects children against many strains of the flu virus. The spray has been used safely and effectively in the USA for over 10 years, and last year it was introduced in the UK as a way of protecting healthy 2 and 3 year olds against the virus.
Neil Adams, Screening and Immunisation Lead (Shropshire and Staffordshire), at NHS England, said: "Flu is not just a bad cold. It can increase the risk of developing more serious illnesses, especially in the young and those with pre-existing medical conditions. In the worst cases, flu can result in a hospital stay, and it can even kill.
"The vaccine is the best possible protection against the flu virus. Not only is the nasal spray needle-free, it also works even better than the injected flu vaccine with fewer side effects.
"It's quick and painless and will mean your child is less likely to become ill if they come into contact with the flu virus."
School Nursing team leader Sue Garland, at Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Partnership NHS Trust, said: "Flu can be very unpleasant for children as they develop the same symptoms as adults, but are at greater risk from complications such as very high temperatures, bronchitis, pneumonia and painful ear infections.
"Children are very good at spreading flu because they don't tend to use tissues as much as adults or wash their hands as frequently. Vaccinating them may also protect others that are vulnerable to flu such as babies, older people, pregnant women and people with serious long-term illnesses."
Years 7 and 8 pupils in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent will be amongst the first to benefit from the painless immunisation. However it's expected that the nasal spray will be brought in for all children in the future.
School-based immunisation teams will be responsible for ensuring that Staffordshire pupils receive the Fluenz nasal spray in school. It's not available at local GP practices unless children are already in an at-risk group.
For more on the Fluenz vaccination visit the NHS Choices website.