Experts to decide if all children should receive swine flu jabs

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is considering whether all children should receive the swine flu jab, as the DoH warns that almost one in three children could catch the virus this winter.

Currently, only children with chronic diseases are included in priority groups for the vaccination campaign. But the latest DoH guidance states that 12 per cent of the population will be hit by swine flu this winter, with a higher rate for children of around 30 per cent.

Speaking at a briefing in central London last week, the CMO for England Sir Liam Donaldson said the DoH was waiting for JCVI advice.

The committee will decide whether the jab should be offered to all children, if vaccine supplies prove to be sufficient to move beyond only vaccinating the priority groups.

Sir Liam said that the DoH is also looking into vaccinating disabled children in schools, following the deaths of two disabled children in Northern Ireland from swine flu.

'Health secretary Andy Burnham has asked us to look at this urgently,' Sir Liam explained at the briefing.

The DoH planning guidance says that the NHS should anticipate up to 35,000 hospitalised cases from swine flu, with 15 per cent of hospitalised patients requiring critical care.

The guidance estimates that up to 1.5 million people could be ill with swine flu in a peak week, with a worst-case scenario of 1,000 deaths during the winter.

But high uptake of the swine flu vaccine could reduce the death rate by as much as 30 per cent, the DoH says.

The first deliveries of the vaccine were due to arrive at GP practices in England and Wales this week, while stocks of the jab began arriving at practices in Scotland and Northern Ireland last week.

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