26 July 2012
Will vaccinating children protect the elderly?
Two to seventeen year olds are going to be offered the annual flu vaccine in an attempt to prevent hospitalisations. It is thought that if just 30% take up the offer, to begin in 2014, there will be 11,000 fewer hospital stays and 2,000 fewer deaths.
Children will be immunised using a nasal spray instead of an injection and the vaccine will still be available for the over 65’s, pregnant womenand those with asthma. This idea will not come into effect until at least 2014 as AstraZeneca, the company who produce the vaccine, does not have the capacity to produce such a large quantity until this time.
Prof Adam Finn, consultant in paediatric infectious diseases at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, said, “This is a good idea as we know it’s effective and safe and flu can be a serious illness in childhood, not just in old age. There should be time to do some more research before we introduce the vaccine to help us predict how well such a programme would be accepted and would work.”
There are concerns that there may be mixed reactions about the new initiative but scientists are aiming to benefit, not just the children being immunised, but the wider population. If children are immune to the illness then it means that there should be a reduction in the amount of adults and babies presenting flu like symptoms, who have not been protected against the illness.