TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2016

Expansion of flu vaccination policy to children could save lives

The flu vaccination policy in Wales and England should be expanded to target five to 16-year-olds to reduce overall flu deaths, according to a recent study published in PLOS Medicine.

The study conducted by researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Athens University of Economics and Business and Public Health England found the current flu vaccination policy targeting people aged 65 years and over and individuals in high risk groups reduced overall flu infections and deaths in such groups in the last 14 years. The authors suggest that offering the flu vaccine to children would have significant beneficial effects.

The authors said that children are key spreaders of the flu virus and the program expansion could reduce infections and deaths.

"The most efficient way of reducing overall influenza-attributable morbidity and mortality appears to be to target the key spreaders -- children," the authors said.

In a modeling study, the authors estimated the current program probably averted 0.39 infections per dose of vaccine and 1.74 deaths per 1,000 doses. The authors further estimated that an expansion of the program to target children between ages five and 16 years would avert 0.7 infections per dose and 1.95 deaths per 1,000 doses compared to no vaccination.

"Even with modest coverage, substantial further reductions in morbidity and mortality could be achieved," the authors said.

A new flu vaccination program for children is currently being rolled out in Wales and England.