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Flu vaccine ineffective for over-65s last winter

Last winter’s flu vaccine was ‘not significantly effective’ for the over-65s, Public Health England has announced.

But PHE said that, despite this, the vaccine programme in children had indirectly protected other vulnerable people.

The flu vaccine nasal spray slashed the risk of vaccinated children getting flu by 68.5% in the 2016-2017 season.

PHE said this comes as it is expanding the child flu vaccination programme to children in Year 4 at school (eight- to nine-year-olds) for the forthcoming season, in a bid to decrease the risk of young children infecting others with weakened immune systems such as the elderly. PHE’s goal is to expand the programme further to include children aged two to 11.

A study published in the Lancet earlier this year found that vaccinating children against flu protects low-risk elderly people as effectively as vaccinating everyone over 65.

Jenny Harries, deputy medical director for Public Health England said: ‘We know children can spread flu more than others and if we can keep them well it means that the infection is less likely to pass to those who are at high risk.

‘The lower effectiveness in the older population this season highlights the need to continue to expand the programme among the young, as by protecting them, we can also protect those at risk of severe disease.’

PHE said it also saw the risk of flu fall by over 40% in vaccinated adults 18-65 ‘allowing more people to stay well last winter’.

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