Flu vaccine for children proving highly effective
Author: Adrian O'Dowd
The nasal spray flu vaccine is proving to be 87% effective in children aged 2 to 17 years old in the UK against the main circulating strain of influenza, it has been revealed.
Public Health England (PHE) has today published mid-season data on the effectiveness of this year’s flu vaccines, alongside data from other countries, in the journal Eurosurveillance.*
The vaccine given to adults aged 18 to 64 in at-risk groups is estimated to be 39% effective against the same strain.
Influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 has been the main strain circulating this season. Due to the fact that the number of cases is lower, a precise estimate for people aged 65 and over will not be available until the end of the season.
PHE said that more children have been vaccinated than ever so far this season, with more than five million children being offered the nasal spray. The vaccine has been offered to an additional school group (year 5), meaning that all children aged 2 to 9 years old were now eligible.
Vaccine uptake in children aged 2 and 3 is 43% and 45.2% respectively, said PHE, and among school-aged children, this ranges from 56.2% to 63.9% depending on year group. Whilst these are the highest levels ever, PHE believes more can be done to increase uptake.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, said: “It is encouraging to see that this year’s vaccines are offering a high level of protection against the main circulating strain of flu – particularly for children. Children tend to be ‘super-spreaders’ of flu, and so protecting them is crucial for protecting the rest of the population.
“We’re pleased that more parents have been taking up the offer of vaccination for their children - and encourage anyone who is eligible to do so every winter. It’s the best defence we have against this unpredictable virus.”
Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: “The most basic instinct for any parent is to do whatever they can to protect their child. Vaccinations save countless lives and are absolutely vital.
“More children have been vaccinated this year to protect against flu, and it is a positive sign that the vaccine itself appears to be more effective than in previous years. Our world-leading vaccination programme saves lives, and I urge all parents of young children to make sure their child is vaccinated against flu and other childhood diseases.”
This season, people aged 18 to 64 in an at-risk group were offered the ‘quadrivalent’ vaccine in injected form (protecting against four strains of flu).
A new ‘adjuvanted’ vaccine was also available for anyone aged 65 and over. The current data does not include estimations of effectiveness for this age category, as further data and analysis is required to calculate an accurate figure.
Data on the effectiveness of this season’s vaccines against influenza B strains are unavailable, as these strains have not circulated widely this season.
* Kissling E, Rose A, Emborg H-D, et al. Interim 2018/19 influenza vaccine effectiveness: six European studies, October 2018 to January 2019. Euro Surveill. 2019;24(8):pii=1900121. DOI:10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2019.24.1900121.