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Government advisers unconvinced by evidence on vaccine efficacy and role of children in disease spread

Flu vaccination: no to children

Children will not be added to the flu vaccination campaign after Government advisers ruled there was insufficient evidence to justify the move.

An advisory committee on flu decided questions remained over the role of children in spreading the disease and how well vaccination would work in younger age groups.

The ruling is likely to raise eyebrows in some quarters, with one leading expert urging advisers to follow the lead of

the US in responding quickly

to new evidence as it became available.

The influenza subgroup of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation published minutes last week from a meeting in September to discuss current evidence.

The committee estimated that if 60 per cent of children under two were vaccinated against influenza A and B, cases of flu in the overall population would fall by about a fifth.

If all children were vaccinated up until five, cases of flu would fall by between 35 and 48 per cent, and by as much as 72 to 98 per cent if all children under 16 years were vaccinated.

But though the subgroup recognised 'the considerable burden of disease in young children', it was 'unclear how much this age group contributes to transmission in adults'.

It also called for further data on the immunogenicity of flu vaccines in children, to rectify the 'near absence of vaccine efficacy data in this age group'.

Professor Karl Nicholson, a member of the subgroup

and professor of infectious

diseases at the University of Leicester, said flu vaccination for children would not be

introduced until the evidence was 'watertight'.

'We fully understand the issue of disease burden, but we would need to convince parents and other groups that another immunisation is necessary. People may look at the USA and wonder why we aren't doing the same thing, but I think it's right to be cautious. We need to have watertight evidence before we can reach a decision.'

Professor John Oxford, professor of virology at Queen Mary University of London, said: 'I sympathise that there isn't any evidence, but the situation is unlikely to be different in the UK [to the US]. Personally, I rather like the speed with which the US has moved on this. I hope that when the evidence is available we move with similar speed.'

• For the latest evidence on flu vaccination, go to the GP's search engine

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