Children to receive flu vaccine
All children in Northern Ireland aged two and above are to receive a flu vaccine by 2015, it was revealed.
Most will receive the dose via a quick and painless nasal spray, used because it provides greater protection than an injection, the Public Health Agency (PHA) said.
Dr Richard Smithson said: "This vaccine has been used in America now for several years and millions of doses have been given. We can therefore be very confident in knowing that it is a safe and effective vaccine."
This autumn all healthy children aged two and three on September 1 and those in Primary 6 will be offered the vaccine as part of the seasonal flu programme, the health protection consultant added.
Health chiefs intend to offer the vaccine to all pre-school and primary school children next year and to all aged two to 16 from autumn 2015.
Dr Smithson added: "The flu virus spreads through the air when people cough and sneeze without covering their nose and mouth, and because young children don't always cover their noses or mouths when coughing or sneezing the virus can spread very quickly among them."
Children in at-risk groups, such as those with asthma, heart conditions or cerebral palsy, are already eligible to receive flu protection from GPs.
Health minister Edwin Poots said: "I would urge all parents and guardians of eligible children to take up this offer of free flu vaccination whenever the programme begins this autumn."