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GP doubts flu jab value in asthma

Scientific evidence does not support routine influenza vaccination for children with asthma, according to a GP asthma expert.

Dr Dermot Ryan, a co-author of the British Thoracic Society national asthma guidelines, was commenting on new research suggesting flu vaccine did not significantly reduce the number, severity or duration of asthma exacerbations caused by influenza.

The Dutch study – a randomised, controlled trial – involved giving the vaccine or placebo to 700 six- to 18-year-olds who were asked to keep a diary of symptoms for six months.

Writing in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, the researchers said further research was needed 'to justify routine influenza vaccination of children with asthma in general practice'.

Dr Ryan, a GP in Loughborough, Leicestershire, said the results were 'not terribly surprising – it adds to the argument that flu vaccination in children under 18 doesn't make much difference'.

But Dr John Watson, head of respiratory diseases at the Health Protection Agency, said it was 'too early to say immunisation was not worthwhile' as flu was a recognised cause of asthma exacerbations.

He stressed current UK policy was only to vaccinate children with moderate or severe asthma.

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