October 9, 2013
Expanding Flu Vaccination Policies To Include Children Could Reduce Infections And Mortality
The current influenza (flu) vaccination policy in England and Wales should be expanded to target 5 to 16-year-olds in order to further reduce the number of deaths from flu, according to a study by UK researchers published in this week's PLOS Medicine.
The results of the study by Marc Baguelin and colleagues from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in the UK, Public Health England, and Athens University of Economics and Business, show that the current flu vaccination policy that targets people aged 65 years and over and also those in high risk groups has reduced the number of flu infections and associated deaths in these groups over the past 14 years. The authors show that offering the flu vaccine to children will have beneficial effects especially as children are key "spreaders" of the flu virus.
These findings are encouraging given that a new flu vaccination program for children is being rolled out in England and Wales from this month (September 2013). However, the accuracy of the authors' predictions may be limited because the vaccination model was based on several assumptions.
The authors say: "The most efficient way of reducing overall influenza-attributable morbidity and mortality appears to be to target the key spreaders—children."
They continue: "Even with modest coverage, substantial further reductions in morbidity and mortality could be achieved."
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