LONDON, July 25 (Reuters) - Britain is to extend its seasonal flu vaccination programme to all children, free of charge, becoming the first country in the world to do so, the Department of Health said on Wednesday.
Children will get AstraZeneca’s nasal spray vaccine, rather than injections, under the new scheme.
The roll-out will take time, however, since the drugmaker will not have the capacity to deliver enough new vaccine until 2014 at the earliest.
FluMist, made by AstraZeneca’s MedImmune unit, has been available for the past decade in the United States but this is the first big contract for the product outside America.
Once established, the new flu vaccination programme will cost more than 100 million pounds ($155 million) each year and will be offered to up to 9 million children.
While the list price for the vaccine is 14 pounds ($22) a dose, Britain’s National Health Service is likely to have negotiated a substantial discount, which may limit the profit boost for AstraZeneca from the contract.
Healthy children do not die of seasonal flu as often as old people but they can get sick enough to require admission to hospital. Schools also act as a breeding ground for flu, which can then be brought into the home to infect other family members. ($1 = 0.6441 British pounds) ($1 = 0.6441 British pounds) (Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by Chris Wickham)