Flu vaccines for all children

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All two to 17-year-olds in the UK are to be offered annual flu vaccinations.

If 30% take up the offer, there will be 11,000 fewer hospitalisations and 2,000 fewer deaths each year, the chief medical officer for England says.

The children will be immunised using a nasal spray rather than an injection, starting in 2014 at the earliest.

The injectable flu vaccine will continue to be offered to the over-65s, pregnant women and those with medical conditions such as asthma.

Children usually get a mild and sometimes unpleasant illness from seasonal flu. They rarely suffer complications. Youngsters who do are usually in the at-risk groups already offered a flu vaccine.

Prof Dame Sally Davies: "This should result in 11,000 fewer hospitalisations and 2,000 fewer deaths each year"

The Joint Committe on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said the new strategy would avert a large number of flu cases among children as well as many severe cases and deaths, mostly among the elderly and others vulnerable to the infection.

Chief medical officer for England, Prof Dame Sally Davies, told me: "Even with moderate uptake of 30% it's estimated that this should result in 11,000 fewer hospitalisations and 2,000 fewer deaths each year.

"But we will aim to get a much higher proportion of children immunised and that will save even more lives."

Those figures are based on an unpublished study from the Health Protection Agency and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.


Prof Davies said most of the details of the immunisation programme had still to be worked out, including negotiating a contract price for the vaccine, which is marketed by AstraZeneca.

The Department of Health said the company would not have the capacity to deliver enough vaccine until 2014 at the earliest.

Fluenz is a live attenuated - weakened - intranasal vaccine, which has been used for several years in the United States under the brand name FluMist.

In the minutes of its latest meeting the JCVI says the vaccine has "a good safety profile" and may be more widely accepted by parents and children because it is given in the form of a nasal spray.

But side effects can include mild flu-like symptoms, including a runny nose or sore throat.

Prof Adam Finn, consultant in paediatric infectious diseases at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, said: "This is a good idea as we know it's effective and safe and flu can be a serious illness in childhood, not just in old age.

"There should be time to do some more research before we introduce the vaccine to help us predict how well such a programme would be accepted and would work."

The expectation is that under-fives will be vaccinated in GP surgeries and older children at school, but the JCVI says there are currently "far too few" school nurses to enable this to happen.

The committee also said it would be a "huge expansion" of the immunisation programme, more than doubling the number of vaccinations offered to children before they reach adulthood.

Nine million children will be eligible for the nasal flu vaccine and the price tag could be more than £100m a year.

Children under nine are likely to require two doses of the vaccine spaced a few weeks apart, with older children needing one dose.

The UK is thought to be the first country in the world to offer free flu immunisation to all children. Like all other vaccines here it will not be compulsory.

Herd immunity

The JCVI says there may be "mixed reactions" to the flu immunisation plans and it recommends an information campaign for parents, children and healthcare staff.

All immunisation is intended to benefit the wider population as well as the individual through what is known as herd immunity. There are already examples where the benefit is largely for others.

All children are immunised against rubella (also known as German measles). The virus causes only a mild infection in children. But if a woman catches the infection during early pregnancy it can cause serious damage to the developing baby.

By immunising all children against rubella, it provides protection to others, as yet unborn.

In the same way, extending flu vaccination to healthy children will provide most health benefits to others.

Prof Davies said healthy children would get real benefits from avoiding flu, which could be a "miserable" disease.

She added: "Don't forget it will also protect their baby brother or sister, and their grand-parents, so it really is worth doing."

Fergus Walsh, Medical correspondent Article written by Fergus Walsh Fergus Walsh Medical correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 511.

    I see DDT is getting a panning again. We definitely got it wrong, we saved a few birds and killed millions of humans due to malaria. Somebody actually said Silent Spring killed more than Mein Kampf. Probably not true .....yet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 510.

    The flu doesn't stop all strains and if you are unlucky enough to still catch the flu then your symptoms after being vaccinated will be much milder than if you weren't. The elderly are vaccinated as they are an at risk group as their bodies can't fight it as well. Children are also more likely to get complications from it and less likely to fight it as well as a healthy adult so I agree with it

  • rate this

    Comment number 509.

    He thought the government was surposed to be SAVING MONEY? The elderly may need this service. Everyone else can go to a chemist in the fall and get a flu jab for between £8-10.The figures used above is just total BULL. Even if they are injected against a flu based on last year there may be a new out break of bird flu, swine flu or even Elephant flu.So they wont be immune

  • rate this

    Comment number 508.

    More nonsense and lies being pedalled by the pharmaceutical industry. Before you likely compromise your health or your child's, for another view search for FluMist on mercola.com and read what it has to say

  • rate this

    Comment number 507.

    @490. 6DAS6: "The Italians" did not "totally ignore". It's interesting how the Internet creates folklore, though.

    Italy's government was fairly relaxed about fixing non-critical public systems. But the important stuff (energy, transport, comms) was, of course, checked+updated well before 1/1/2000 and monitored around that date.

  • rate this

    Comment number 506.


    Some people get affected with flu.
    Some get affected with stupidity.

    There is a cure for flu but not for EU for stupidity %0{ !

  • rate this

    Comment number 505.

    You'd be unlucky to have proper flu twice in a lifetime. 99.9% of "Oh I've got flu" cases are nothing more than a cold.

    A good test to see if someone really has the flu is to put a £20 note at the bottom of their bed. Tell them it's theirs if get up and put in it their wallet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 504.

    486 SophiaJanus

    Yes, there is some evidence of a link between excessive antiseptic cleanliness and a reduced resilience against common bacteria and, yes, there is little doubt that the over-use of antibiotics has encouraged the evolution of more resistant strains. However, influenza is a virus. It's just a completely different thing.

    Also, you appear to be confusing DDT with Thalidomide.

  • rate this

    Comment number 503.

    497. 6DAS6
    In England obviously. Flu kills 250,000 to upwards of a million people every year world wide depending on herd immunity and pandemic flu.

  • rate this

    Comment number 502.

    493: The story suggests that more than 2000 kids between 2 and 17 die a year from Flu. Is that worldwide?
    As it says in the article, most flu deaths in the UK are in]]members of the elderly population and other vulnerable groups such as pregnant women . Children act as vectors, thus making it more likely that vulnerable people will catch the disease.

  • rate this

    Comment number 501.

    Scientific studies and trials are rarely (if not never) conducted on children due to the ethics. Which is probably the reason for the governments caution at introducing this vaccine (or any medication for that matter) to the under 18s, not enough data to definitively say what effect it will have.

  • Comment number 500.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 499.

    The problem is that this comes from politicians who are lobbied by the pharmaceutical companies into providing growth in their industry, With the rosy picture of really BIG tax revenues ahead from drug company profits the government goes all glassy eyed.

    The virus is continually evolving and Flu injections only work with relevant strain of the virus.

    A child flu quarantine is an easier method.

  • rate this

    Comment number 498.

    @ 496 For about the umpteenth time vaccinations do not suppress natural immunity, they boost it. All a vaccine is is a deactivated version of the disease so your immune system knows how to deal with it if you encounter it again. It gives you the same immunity you'd have by having the actual disease, but without the problems of contracting the real thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 497.

    493: Is mathematics nothing to do with science? The story suggests that more than 2000 kids between 2 and 17 die a year from Flu. Is that worldwide? How would vaccinating kids in England saves lives worldwide?

  • rate this

    Comment number 496.

    Young children's immune systems are already 'overloaded' with the volume of vaccines now being given, their own 'natural immunity' towards flu, and childhood illnesses is extremely low. I agree with Sophia why do we suffer with as many allergies now? Especially peanut! This cant all be blamed on changes in the environment.

    Also how much are GP's being paid per vaccine?

  • rate this

    Comment number 495.

    when will people wake up to the fact that teher is very little proven scientific evidence from OTHER than pharmaceutical companies that vacinations work? Secondly look at the compounds in vaccinations which include mercury and other extremely harmful elements. big pharma is just looking to increase sales -next step will be compulsory vaccinations as they have achieved in many States in the USA

  • rate this

    Comment number 494.

    @farkyss, re PCT as the current name for the structures of internal competition, regionalisation and rationing, you're agreeing angrily.

    Read Thatcher's hilariously misnamed _Caring for People_ and _Working for Patients_ white papers.

    And try not to see battles everywhere. Based on the steady flow of conspiracy theory from your posts, it's probably not doing you any good.

  • Comment number 493.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 492.

    So are they effectively changing the health guidelines to say that everyone should get a flu vaccine?

    I'm not eligible for one on the NHS, but I've go to get one every year at a High Street pharmacy for about £15 just to be on the safe side, especially when there is so much conflicting advice online about the subject.

    Are they now effectively recommending that everyone does the same?


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