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Flu vaccines for all may be cost-effective

Universal flu programme reduces healthcare use, study shows

OnMedica Staff

Wednesday, 05 November 2008

Wide-scale influenza inoculation is associated with a reduction in associated mortality and healthcare use, new research suggests.

A universal influenza immunisation programme implemented in Ontario, Canada, in 2000 proved highly successful, according to researchers from the University of Toronto.

"This is the first study that evaluated the impact of a large-scale UIIP using empirical data -- other studies have either examined vaccinating selected subpopulations (e.g., children only) or have been modelling studies," explained lead author Dr. Jeffrey C. Kwong,

"The take-home message," he added, "is that the more people get vaccinated, the fewer influenza-related events there are."

Dr. Kwong's team analysed mortality and hospitalisation data for all ten Canadian provinces from 1997 to 2004. Of the ten, only Ontario implemented a universal influenza immunisation programme, while the others maintained targeted immunisation programmes throughout the study period.

After universal influenza immunisation initiation, Ontario experienced a significantly greater drop in influenza-associated mortality than did the other provinces (p = 0.0002). Universal influenza immunisation implementation was also linked to greater reductions in influenza-associated hospitalisations, emergency department use, and GP visits.

"The next step is to conduct an economic evaluation to see if universal influenza immunisation is cost-effective in comparison to programmes targeting high risk groups (and perhaps their contacts). We hope to get those results published soon so that decision-makers have that information as well to guide their decisions," Dr. Kwong said.



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