Flu vaccine for schoolchildren?

Independent Government advisers will recommend vaccinating children from age 5 to prevent the spread of flu

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Plans to vaccinate young children against flu are to be proposed by a panel of independent Government advisers, the Telegraph reports.

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The independent panel, who will present their recommendations to the Department of Health, believes that vaccinating children from the age of 5 will reduce the number of the general population affected by the disease.

A nasal spray vaccine, rather than needles, would be used, with a four week gap between two doses. The vaccine, licensed in December 2011, is made from eggs so would not be given to children with known allergies.

Under the proposed plans, children would be vaccinated every year. The vaccine would be updated annually to combat the three most common strains of the illness.

According to minutes from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation last month, members believe the vaccination would be both “cost effective” and would prevent serious illness in adults, reports the Telegraph.

A study published last year suggests immunising healthy children would prevent eight in 10 flu infections and would free up 790,000 GP appointments.

Under current rulings, only children with long-term illnesses receive the seasonal flu jab, along with pregnant women, the over-65s, those in care and healthcare workers.

Dr George Kassianos, spokesperson on immunisation for the Royal College of GPs, reportedly told GP magazine, “If we can reduce the infection rate among children we can reduce the morbidity and death rate in the community generally, and especially among the elderly.”

Professor Ian Jones, Professor of Virology, University of Reading, is said to have added, “Not only does it protect the vaccinated child, but it also benefits society generally as children act as ‘superspreaders’.

“There are many safety tests that are gone through and this particular vaccine has been used extensively in the US. It’s also extremely unlikely that there could be any issue of over-vaccinating as it is a nasal spray,” Professor Jones continued.

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