04/08/2008

Research Recommends Child Flu Jabs

New research has today suggested that vaccinating children against the 'flu could prevent the spread of the virus in the whole population.

A team at the Health Protection Agency (HPA) say that an annual flu jab for the under fives could reduce some types of infection by up to 70%.

The team says immunising children could "particularly protect the elderly".

Children are the most likely candidates to spreading infection as they have lower immunity and are in close contact with their families and each other.

The researchers found that if an annual vaccination programme included everyone under the age of 16, the incidence of both influenza A and influenza B "could drop by more than 90%".

Immunising those aged between six months and two years would reduce flu in the population by between 11% and 35% depending on the strain.

The findings are expected to prompt calls for a change in government policy.

However, in 2006, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) decided against recommending a similar programme in the UK after reviewing contemporaneous evidence.

A spokesperson for the JCVI said it was keeping the issue under review and was awaiting the outcome of further studies being done on the effects of flu vaccine in children.

Dr George Kassianos, immunisation spokesperson for the Royal College of GPs says the college has been calling for the introduction of influenza vaccination for the "past five or six years".

"There is an urgent need for the JCVI to review their decision," he said.

Professor John Oxford, an expert in virology at Barts and The London, Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry said "all the evidence seemed to be pointing towards a benefit".

Currently, the elderly and people with respiratory problems, such as asthma are offered a flu vaccine every year.

(DS)

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