1. ITV Report

Flu vaccine trial: how does it work?

The new vaccine comes in a nasal spray Photo: ITV News Tyne Tees

More than 10,000 primary school children in Gateshead are being offered a 'flu jab for the first time.

Gateshead is the only part of the North East involved in a countrywide trial of the vaccine. The programme is being carried out in schools across the borough between now and December.

Until now, a traditional 'flu jab has only been offered to children who are regarded as being 'at risk'.

Here, we have answered some questions about the vaccine.

Why is the trial taking place?

Every year, thousands of people are affected by 'flu. NHS England says 'flu is a serious illness with potential complications. These include the risk of developing infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis.

The NHS says 'flu is highly contagious and children can pass it on to people at risk, such as pregnant women, people over 65 and those with long term health conditions.

Why does the trial involve primary school children?

'Flu viruses spread most easily among this group. Vaccinating children of this age should also prevent the spread of viruses to their siblings, parents and other family members.

Why is Gateshead taking part in the trial?

Health officials in Gateshead offered to be part of this pilot scheme. The other six trial areas are in the South East, Midlands and North West England.

Why is the vaccine given as a nasal spray?

NHS England says the vaccine works more effectively in the form of a spray. It also says the vaccine is administered more quickly and painlessly to children than a traditional jab.

Is it true that the nasal spray contains pork gelatine?

The NHS has confirmed that the nasal spray contains small quantities of pork gelatine.

It says:

"Although certifed as acceptable by many faith groups including representatives from Jewish and Muslim communities, some parents may want to balance the constraints of their personal beliefs against the benefits of vaccination. "

All parents have the choice over whether to accept the vaccine for their children.

In Gateshead, around three quarters of children are being immunised.

Will the annual seasonal 'flu programme continue as normal?

A number of children, who were in a clinical 'at risk' group would be offered a 'flu vaccine anyway. They are not included in the pilot and will receive their vaccine it the normal way.

Adults in 'at risk' categories, as well as pregnant women, people over 65 and carers are also entitled to a free vaccine. They should contact their GP surgery to make an appointment.

What will happen after this pilot programme?

The aim of the trial is to test the way the vaccine is administered. In future years, the scheme will be expanded to include all young people age 2 - 16 years old.