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Last Updated: Sunday, 22 January 2006, 00:48 GMT
Flu jab considered for under-twos
Parents may be concerned if their children have to have more jabs
Children under the age of two may be vaccinated with the flu jab under plans being considered by health officials.

They say the move would ease the burden on NHS staff who deal with a large number of infant flu cases each year.

The elderly and children aged over six months with conditions such as asthma, diabetes or weak immune systems are given the jab for free at present.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which advises the Government, is considering the idea.

'Significant' problem

It wants more research to be carried out before it can recommend the project to ministers.

There are also fears that parents already concerned at the number of vaccinations their children have to take would reject the idea.

The committee's influenza sub-group discussed the idea with officials from the Department of Health, the Scottish Executive and the Welsh Assembly last September.

The minutes of that meeting have now been released.

Flu is estimated to kill several thousand people in the UK each year
10-15% of the population develop flu each year
100,000 flu particles can be projected into the air with just one sneeze
In 12 hours, the flu virus can invade 1 million nose and throat cells
They say the burden of flu in children is "significant" with "large numbers" of GP consultations, hospitalisations and some deaths each year.

"Modelling presented to the sub-group suggested that a vaccination strategy for pre-school children could reduce the burden, provided high levels of coverage were achieved," the minutes state.

"Such a policy was only cost-effective, however, if pre-school vaccination resulted in significant reductions in influenza in adults.

"More work is required, particularly on efficacy of the vaccine in young children and benefits to the children themselves, before the sub-group can make a recommendation."

Constantly changing

The Department of Health said: "Our response will be made available in due course."

Flu is highly infectious - a sneeze, travelling at 80 miles per hour, can carry the virus up to 30 feet away.

Touching objects such as toys that have been coughed or sneezed on can also pass it on.

Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer for England, wants at-risk groups to get a flu jab every year, as the flu virus is constantly changing.

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