Department of Health advisors have agreed ‘in principle’ that the annual flu vaccination programme should be extended to children, suggesting GPs could be responsible for vaccinating all pre-school children.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation says a recent Health Protection Agency study supports the extension of the current vaccination programme to all under 17s, but they require more evidence to determine how this should be done in practice.
The committee said the best way to implement such a scheme could to follow the model used by the HPV immunisation programme i.e. a schools-based programme for all school-age children and GPs responsible for vaccinating all pre-school children. However, they warned ‘additional resources’ would be needed to fund this programme.
In a statement, the JCVI said the strategy could reduce the impact of influenza in children and also reduce influenza transmission from children to younger children, adults and those in clinical risk groups.
‘JCVI agreed in principle to support extension of the vaccination programme to children on the basis of the findings of the current study.’
‘However, firm recommendations on how best the programme could be extended would be dependent on additional information and analyses supporting the conclusions drawn.’
The committee called for additional information before the programme could be extended including:
- A review of vaccine safety and of US data on the use of live intranasal vaccines
- Further data on the contribution of children to influenza transmission
- Extra cost-effectiveness data on extending the programme
- assurances from manufacturers on vaccine availability
- Attitudinal research on acceptability and uptake of vaccine in pre-school children in GP surgeries and in schools
- Potential costs of the programme in surgeries and schools
Dr George Kassianos, RCGP immunisation lead, said the development was ‘very encouraging’.
He said: ‘We already know from experience in Japan that for every 420 children vaccinated against influenza, one death in an elderly is prevented.’
‘Admissions to hospital of children aged two to four years with flu-like illness in Boston USA, where children are routinely vaccinated, are a third less that in Montreal Canada, where children are not routinely vaccinated.’