Jabs for children could prevent swine flu

Research suggests targeting vaccinations at children as first batches of swine flu jab produced.

Vaccinating children appears to be the most effective way of using limited vaccine supplies to control the spread of swine flu, say UK researchers.

Last week, Novartis announced the first batch of a H1N1 flu vaccine had been produced 'weeks ahead of schedule'.

However, it remains unlikely that there will be sufficient supplies of the vaccine available to vaccinate the whole UK population during the autumn vaccination programme.

Researchers have suggested that the virus is infecting mainly younger people, as those over 60 may have built up immunity, having previously been exposed to similar strains.

This latest study used computer modelling to predict the spread of pandemic influenza in order to identify the best way of controlling the virus.

Vaccinating entire households at random was found to be an inefficient use of resources, as effective herd immunity can be achieved without the need to vaccinate all household members. Instead, vaccinating key individuals like children offered protection to others in their household.

Study researcher Professor Matt Keeling, from the University of Warwick, said: 'Our model suggests that the larger the household, which in most cases means the more children living at home, the more likely the infection is to spread.

'This doesn't mean that everyone in the households need to be vaccinated, but suggests that vaccination programmes for children might help control a potential pandemic.'

Dr George Kassianos, RCGP immunisation spokesman, said: 'Young adults can spread influenza viruses and should be included in the at-risk groups, but this has not been accepted by the JCVI.

'New epidemic centres on younger ages should prompt the JCVI to discuss vaccination of children and young adults.'

sanjay.tanday@haymarket.com

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