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Nasal spray flu vaccine for children proving effective

Vaccine thought to be 57.6% effective in preventing child flu

Adrian O'Dowd

Friday, 24 June 2016

The nasal spray form of the influenza vaccine given to children is proving to be as effective as that used in adults, according to Public Health England (PHE).

New provisional figures released by PHE show that the childhood nasal spray flu vaccine has been effective in the UK, both in protecting children and their communities from flu.

Jointly, PHE, the Department of Health and NHS England said they all remained confident that the spray vaccine was playing an important role in protecting children, families and others in the community from flu during the winter.

PHE said it estimated that overall, the vaccine was 57.6% effective in preventing flu infection amongst children in 2015-16.

Dr Richard Pebody, head of flu surveillance for PHE said: “These findings are encouraging and in line with what we also typically see for the adult flu vaccine. Prior to offering vaccination to all our youngest primary school aged children this season, school age pilots took place in a number of areas across England in 2014-15.

“In areas where flu vaccine was piloted amongst primary school age children, there was a 94% reduction in GP influenza like illness consultation rates, 74% reduction in A&E respiratory attendances and 93% reduction in hospital admissions due to confirmed influenza in primary school children.

“In the same pilot areas, GP ‘influenza like illness’ consultation rates for adults were 59% lower compared to non-pilot areas.”

The figures for the UK have not been replicated in the US where there have been reports of a possible lower vaccine effectiveness, but in Finland, its National Institute for Health and Welfare has confirmed that it saw similar effectiveness levels to the UK in 2015-16 and confirmed the nasal spray vaccine would continue to be used in Finland next winter.

From October of this year, the vaccine will be extended to healthy children in school year 3 in England. Once again, children aged 2, 3 and 4, and in school years 1 and 2 will also be eligible to receive the free vaccine.

Dr Pebody added: “Flu vaccine is the best protection we have against an unpredictable virus which can cause severe illness and deaths each year not only amongst children but also amongst at-risk groups.

“Based on intelligence to date, there is no reason to change current recommendations regarding use of the children’s nasal spray vaccine in the UK.

“We’re delighted that the UK leads the way in offering this vaccine to children and we remain confident that the vaccines used in the annual flu vaccine programme are the most effective that are currently available in protecting both those vaccinated and in reducing transmission of the flu virus in our communities.”

PHE recently confirmed the use of the children’s nasal spray for the 2016-17 flu vaccination programme through its annual flu plan and letter.

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