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Flu vaccination extension for children put on hold

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More evidence is needed before the flu vaccination programme is extended to include children, experts have said.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises the Government on vaccination policy, said the current at-risk groups should remain a priority.

At present, over-65s, pregnant women and people with a serious medical condition, including children with such conditions, are eligible for a seasonal flu jab.

In the US, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a flu vaccine for all children, including healthy youngsters, aged six months and older.

Andrew Lansley had asked the JCVI to look at whether the flu vaccination programme should be extended.

The JCVI reviewed the evidence and said an initial study by the Health Protection Agency suggests it may be cost-effective to vaccinate healthy children to reduce the spread of flu.

“However, further data is needed before the committee is able to make a recommendation to government on vaccinating healthy children,” it said.

It said more information is needed on the availability of flu vaccines for children which are likely to become available in the UK.

Further assessment is also needed of the impact on GPs and schools of vaccinating healthy children, and the resources needed for such a programme.

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.”



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