17/11/2011

Flu Vaccination Delayed For 'More Advice'

The Department of Health has said on Thursday that it needs further advice from the committee looking into the flu vaccine before it can roll out a larger programme.

The announcement follows a request from Health Secretary Andrew Lansley to look at whether the flu vaccination programme should be extended to healthy children.

However, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said it was awaiting further advice from the independent experts before making a decision.

The committee confirmed that increasing flu vaccine uptake in older people and those in the clinical risk group should remain the priority.

But, the committee said it had reviewed the evidence regarding the benefits of extending the flu vaccination to other groups but was yet to come to a final decision.

According to the committee, an initial study by the Health Protection Agency, suggested it might be cost effective to vaccinate healthy children to reduce transmission of flu. However, further data was needed before the recommendation could be made.

"More information is needed on the availability of flu vaccines that provide better protection in children and that are likely to become available in the UK. More information from the vaccine manufacturers about how and when enough vaccine would be available is needed," the committee said.

It added that further assessment of the impact on GPs and schools of vaccinating healthy children and the resources needed is required, as well as further studies on the likely take up of the flu vaccine by healthy children.

The Government’s Director of Immunisation Professor David Salisbury said: “The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has said it is unable at this stage to recommend an extension of the flu vaccination programme as it needs further evidence.

“Extending the vaccination programme to all healthy children under 17 would be a huge undertaking, increasing the number of people who get the vaccine, so it is important that we get this decision absolutely right. A key consideration will be the availability, as the JCVI concluded, of a flu vaccine, given as nose drops, that would be more effective in protecting children against flu. But we need to understand from vaccine manufacturers how and when they would be able to produce the vaccine in the quantities we need.

“In the meantime, we continue to recommend that people in at risk groups, 65s and over and pregnant women do get vaccinated – they are the most at risk from suffering complications. The JCVI is clear that is the current priority.”

Until the JCVI's recommendation to Government, the Committee has advised that 65s and over, people in at risk groups and pregnant women should continue to be vaccinated. Those are the people most at risk from complications if they get flu.

(DW)

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