Children to be given yearly flu jabs to prevent flu in older peopleThe UK government has announced that all children in England and Wales aged between 2 and 17 years of age are to be offered yearly flu jabs. This has been described as “cost-effective" as a result of complex mathematical models that predict the vaccine will reduce the burden of influenza on GPs' work and will reduce the number of deaths and hospital admissions from flu. However no one is pretending that it is the vaccinated children who are going to benefit. Children, especially healthy children, very rarely die from influenza; in fact in many years there are no deaths at all from flu in children under 15 years of age.2 Nevertheless, the chief medical officer is predicting that, even with only 30% uptake of the vaccine, 2,000 deaths and 11,000 hospitalisations from flu will be prevented every year. This is a very suspect prediction and is itself based on no hard evidence but rather extremely complex mathematical modeling relying on many questionable assumptions. If, and it is a big IF, this prediction is correct it is not the children who are being vaccinated and risking adverse reactions who are benefiting but primarily the elderly over 75 years of age. I have no objection to reducing illness and deaths in the elderly - indeed if I am fortunate I might reach that age myself - but a high proportion of the hypothetical 2,000 deaths saved is likely to be in frail elderly who, if spared influenza will, sadly, only go on to die from some other cause in subsequent months. In other words, many, if not most, of the deaths 'saved' are not really saved but merely postponed for a short time.
Many of us already have concerns about the burden of immunisation in children and its possible contribution to the rise in immune related disorders. This proposal would increase the number of vaccines a healthy child receives by 18 years of age from 35 to 59 4 boys and from 38 to 62 in girls. This massive increase in the vaccine burden is untried and untested with regards to both safety and effectiveness. It is symptomatic of the medical establishment's gung-ho attitude to vaccines. It has been suggested that vaccinating healthy children against flu may cause them more harm than benefit; indeed a flu vaccine given to children in Australia was withdrawn in 2009 because of the high incidence of adverse reactions.3 The proposal is not only suspect scientifically but is also questionable on moral and ethical grounds. All children are to be offered a total of 24 flu shots in their childhood with no pretence that this is of any great benefit to them. I do not believe children should be given such an avalanche of vaccines with unknown long-term consequences to benefit those two generations older than them. Introducing flu vaccination for all children in the UK is unnecessary, foolhardy and potentially dangerous.
Added 26 July 2012