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Flu vaccinations for school age children in England are cost effective, say experts

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f4749 (Published 25 July 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f4749
  1. Gareth Iacobucci
  1. 1BMJ

School age children in the United Kingdom could be offered vaccination against influenza from as early as next year after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised that the programme be extended to children aged 5 to less than 17 years.

In a statement published on 24 July, the committee said that an extension was “highly likely to be cost effective and well within accepted cost effectiveness thresholds.”1

It also recommended that an extended vaccination programme should include low risk children aged 2 to less than 5 years, although the additional benefit of this “may be relatively small in comparison.”

The move follows the Department of Health’s decision in April this year to offer all children aged two years in England a nasal flu vaccine from September 2013.2

The committee said that research indicated that extending the programme to low risk children was likely to be cost effective because it could lower the impact of flu on children and lower transmission of flu to other children and to adults.

It said that vaccinations for children aged 5 to less than 17 years would be best delivered in schools, while preschool children from 2 years of age could be vaccinated elsewhere, such as in general practice.

The committee added that any expanded programme could not be implemented until autumn 2014 “at the very earliest” and may take longer because of the need for an extensive public information and education campaign.

Time was needed to “implement and adequately resource an extended programme, ensure the large-scale supply, storage and distribution of vaccine and allow the impending changes to the health and public health system in England to be completed.”

The chief medical officer for England, Sally Davies, said that the government accepted the recommendations but added, “There are significant challenges to delivering a programme that requires up to nine million children to be vaccinated during a six week period and we will look at the recommendations in detail to decide how best to develop and deliver the programme.”

Meanwhile, the committee has chosen not to recommend that the meningitis B vaccine, Bexsero, be made available on the grounds that there is currently not enough evidence of its cost effectiveness.3

David Salisbury, director of immunisation at the Department of Health, said, “This is a very difficult situation where we have a new vaccine against meningitis B but we lack important evidence. We need to know how well it will protect, how long it will protect, and if it will stop the bacteria from spreading from person to person.”

Notes

Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f4749

Footnotes

  • bmj.com Feature: Influenza: marketing vaccine by marketing disease (BMJ 2013;346:f3037, doi:10.1136/bmj.f3037)

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