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Flu jab could prevent pneumonia in under-5s

The Government should consider extending the group of patients targeted for the flu vaccine to the under-fives, following study results that show influenza A triggers community-acquired pneumonia in a 'surprising' number of young children.

The researchers said giving the flu vaccine to this age group could be worthwhile clinically and economically as it may also protect working parents from being infected.

The Department of Health has told GPs to target the flu vaccine at all over-65s and at-risk groups, including patients with chronic heart, lung or kidney diseases.

Study co-author Professor Robert Booy, professor of child health at Queen Mary University London, looked at 51 cases of community-acquired pneumonia in children under five collected through paediatric accident and emergency units and three GP practices in London.

Professor Booy, who presented the results to a European Scientific Working Group conference on influenza, said influenza A was implicated in some 16 per cent of pneumonia cases, the majority of which were in children under one year old.

He said: 'The high rate is surprising. The introduction of influenza A vaccine for young children should be considered.'

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