Medical experts including those from Public Health Wales have contributed to a report showing that nasal spray flu vaccine reduced the risk of vaccinated children getting flu by 65.8% in the 2016/17 season.
The childhood flu vaccine programme is now being expanded in Wales to include children in school year 4 in 2017/18, and all primary school children the following season.
The provisional end of season data published by Public Health England (PHE) also shows that the vaccine reduced the risk of flu in adults aged under 65 years with long-term conditions by 40% in 2016/17, which is within the expected range.
All children from two years old (age on 31 August 2017) through to school year 4 will be offered flu vaccination this autumn.
‘Reducing the circulation of the flu virus protects other vulnerable members of the population such as those with a weakened immune system and the elderly,’ says Public Health Wales.
The study, led by Public Health England with input from influenza surveillance teams from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, did not find that the vaccine was significantly effective in protecting against influenza in primary care for those aged 65 and over last season.
Public Health Wales says this highlights the importance of the vaccine programme in children, which aims to protect the child and also indirectly protect other vulnerable members of the community.
In addition, action taken to help prevent flu for groups at higher risk of severe disease such as influenza antiviral treatment and prophylaxis, remain important interventions.
Other vaccines, which are hoped to provide better protection for the elderly, will be available in the future.
Studies from previous seasons show that the vaccination usually provides significant levels of protection when well-matched to the circulating strain of influenza.
Dr Quentin Sandifer, Executive Director of Public Health Services for Public Health Wales, said:
“It is good news that last winter children were particularly well protected against flu with the nasal spray vaccine.
“We know children can spread flu more easily than others, and if we can protect them it means that the infection is also less likely to pass to those who are at high risk.
“Most people recover from flu after four to five days, but for some, it can be extremely serious and even fatal. Vaccines are the best defence we have against flu.”
Dr Richard Roberts, Head of the Vaccine Preventable Disease Programme in Public Health Wales, added:
“Vaccination is the most effective thing we can do to reduce the impact of flu on individuals and in the community each year.
“The lower effectiveness in the older population highlights the need to ensure that those who might pass on flu to them, such as children, carers and health and social care workers, are vaccinated, as by protecting them we can also help protect those at risk of severe disease.”
The childhood flu vaccine programme is being expanded in Wales to include children in school year 4 in 2017/18, and all primary school children the following season.
All children from two years old (age on 31st August 2017) through to school year 4 will be offered flu vaccination this autumn.
Top Image: Church Street Medical Centre