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PhilPeverley God only knows . . .

Vaccinating all children against flu is likely to have benefits for the whole of society, a new Health Protection Agency systematic review concludes.

The study, which analysed 11 studies on vaccine effectiveness and three on economics, found it had the 'potential for reducing the impact of flu epidemics'.

The HPA has submitted the study to the Government's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which is conducting a wide-ranging review on the benefits of the flu vaccine in children.

The analysis found vaccinating healthy children appeared to be cost-saving in most community settings and could reduce work and school days lost, respiratory consultations and antibiotic prescriptions.

'Current evidence suggests universal flu vaccination of children is not only beneficial to the children themselves, but could produce benefits for

society as a whole,' concluded the study, published online in Vaccine.

Study leader Rachel Jordan, senior scientist at the HPA in Birmingham, said: 'The point of vaccinating school children would be because they are major vectors for flu in the community. What we can't say for certain is how much benefit there would be.'

The issue of whether to vaccinate children has been the subject of fierce debate in recent years, particularly after a recent UK study found flu was responsible for significantly more child deaths than had been appreciated.

The HPA's Economics and Modelling Unit is now assessing the economic impact of universal vaccination in children.

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