Giving a new influenza vaccine to people aged 65 and over would be “more effective”, according to a committee of experts, which has called on health bodies in England to consider a change in policy.
The committee, which advises the government, highlighted evidence that adjuvanted trivalent influenza vaccines (aTIVs) worked better for older patients than other flu jabs currently on offer.
“Use of aTIV in those aged 65 years and over would be both more effective”
With this in mind, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has asked bodies in charge of immunisation policy to consider switching to the new jab, starting with the over 75s.
So far, just one aTIV – called Fluad – has been approved for use in the UK and, therefore, currently available to GPs and other healthcare professionals to order for the 2018-19 flu season.
Some estimates suggest that more than 1,700 deaths a year could be avoided by switching to the new vaccine, which is manufactured by Seqirus.
- New influenza vaccine for over 65s ‘could prevent 1,700 deaths’
- New approved flu vaccine for older patients set for 2018
Studies have shown using an adjuvant in the vaccine to enhance the body’s immune response to an antigen increases the protection provided. This is particularly relevant for older people whose immune systems have declined and, therefore, do not respond as well to conventional non-adjuvanted vaccines.
Draft minutes from the JCVI’s October meeting show it has asked the Department of Health, Public Health England and NHS England to look at the evidence and consider switching from the traditional flu vaccine to an aTIV for older age groups.
The move follows the publication of data by Public Health England that showed conventional vaccines provided little or no protection for adults aged 65 and over in the 2016-17 flu season – mainly dominated by the A (H3N2) strain of the virus.
Official data also showed that vaccine effectiveness has been especially poor among people aged over 75 for a number of years, noted the committee.
As a result, the JCVI concluded using an aTIV would indeed be “more effective” for those aged 65 and over.
“The committee agreed that use of aTIV in those aged 65 years and over would be both more effective than the non-adjuvanted vaccines currently in use, and also cost-effective,” said the committee.
“We need to ensure that we can offer the most effective prevention against influenza”
If a change of approach was to be considered, it said switching to aTIVs for people aged 75 and over “would be the first priority, given the un-adjuvanted inactivated vaccine showed no significant effectiveness in this group”.
The minutes from the meeting, held on 4 October, revealed that the JCVI had already approached key national health agencies in England.
“The committee asked the Department of Health, Public Health England and NHS England to give consideration to the evidence that had been provided on the provision of adjuvanted influenza vaccine to those aged 65 years and over,” said the report.
However, the committee also acknowledged that practical issues existed for the Department of Health in making a nation-wide policy change.
For example, influenza vaccines for those aged 65 years upwards were currently procured by individual GPs and clinical commissioning groups, and were, therefore, “open to market choice”.
Government advisors back new flu vaccine in older people
The endorsement of aTIV vaccines has been welcomed by health professionals, including Sharon Graham, senior lecturer in nursing at Staffordshire University and a former practice nurse.
“In primary care, we need to ensure that we can offer the most effective prevention against influenza to our patients aged over 65 years,” she said.
“This JCVI guidance will, I hope, help vaccinating health professionals to make the best choice of flu vaccine for next year’s season,” she added.