Families should get flu jabs to protect young children

Vaccinating family members is likely to be the best way of preventing young children from being admitted to hospital with flu, a leading GP researcher has argued.

Dr Douglas Fleming, director of the RCGP's research and surveillance centre, presented results at the Health Protection Agency conference in Coventry this week.

His research team analysed excess winter hospital admissions for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) or flu among UK children.

The researchers showed that, if vaccination were to reduce hospital admissions, it would need to be possible to provide vaccinations to children under six months of age. Vaccination of children older than 24 months against flu or RSV is not likely to reduce hospital admissions, they concluded.

Dr Fleming said that the finding, combined with other research he had conducted, suggested that vaccinating close contacts was the best way to protect young children against flu.

'If we're going to prevent influenza in these very young children, we've got to get over to household protection,' he said. 'I don't think it's just the siblings, it's the household.'

He said that parents and other adults relations were as likely to introduce flu into the house as a child's older siblings.

'Household protection of the older family members who are able to receive the vaccine is the policy I would favour,' he said.

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