Department of Health advisers are considering recommending a schools-based programme to administer flu vaccinations to all children older than five years, after a review of the evidence suggested it would be cost-effective.
In draft minutes from a meeting held last month, members of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said a programme in children could prevent large numbers of serious cases of influenza in older adults and at-risk groups.
The JCVI said last November that recent evidence supported the extension of the current vaccination programme to all under 17s, but they required more evidence to determine how this should be done in practice.
After another meeting to consider the evidence last month, the JCVI said it is likely to be ‘highly cost effective’, but acknowledged health professionals would have ‘mixed opinions’ of a vaccination programme in children, and admitted it would be very costly to introduce.
The committee looked at a programme in all children older than six months, but said a programme in the over-fives was ‘the most cost effective option’ and would most likely be carried out in schools.
The draft minutes say: ‘Given that vaccinating children aged five to less than 17 years is the most cost effective option, that children under two years cannot receive the vaccine of choice, and that attitudinal research had suggested that vaccination of pre-school children is likely to be less well accepted by parents than the vaccination of school children, an extension to the influenza vaccination programme could initially target school-aged children spanning age five to less than 17 years.’
‘There may be additional benefits from such a programme: increasing opportunities for general health promotion in schools, strengthening school health services and wider understanding of immunisation and of the dangers of influenza by children and parents.’
The JCVI will make a final decision on whether to introduce this programme at its next meeting.