Vaccinating healthy children against flu is cost effective, says committee

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 01 June 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e3876
  1. Henry Murphy
  1. 1BMJ

All school age children in England and Wales could be vaccinated against influenza as early as 2014 to reduce the chances of the infection spreading, the immunisation advisory committee that reports to ministers has suggested.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which advises ministers in England and Wales, has said that extending the vaccination to low risk children aged 5 and older would confer additional herd immunity to more vulnerable people in the population, making the extension a highly “cost effective public health intervention.”1

Children are at low risk of death from influenza, and therefore any direct benefit would be mainly in averting the large number of cases of mild influenza illness in children.

Vaccination against influenza is currently offered to those in clinical at-risk groups, including people aged 65 years and over and pregnant women. However, the committee recently considered a range of extensions to the programme, reviewing the evidence on cost effectiveness, the impact of vaccination on past influenza epidemics, and the burden of infection on different age groups.

Targeting children aged between 5 and 17 came out as one of the most cost effective options, alongside increasing uptake in clinical risk groups aged under 65 to at least 75%.A vaccination programme in children, however, should not be implemented until at least 2014 because of the need for strategic education and logistics requirements, it said.

The committee said that there are too few school nurses available to administer the vaccine, even with a low uptake of 30% of children, and that if the programme was extended non-medical staff might have to be trained to deliver the programme.

A spokesperson for the committee said “there are a number of issues that [the committee] believes need further consideration—for example, the public response to such a programme.

“Extending the vaccination programme to healthy children would be a huge undertaking, increasing the number of people who get the vaccine, so it is important that we get this decision absolutely right.”

A meeting in mid June will discuss additional considerations, after which the committee would decide whether to recommend the extension to minsters or call for more evidence.


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e3876