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Flu vaccine works

As we emerge from the winter influenza season, we might wonder how many admissions and critical illnesses could have been prevented if all children had received influenza vaccine, as currently recommended. What’s the evidence that it works? Two papers from North America should help. The first, from Ontario, looked at all children aged 6 months to 5 years who were admitted to hospital and had a respiratory secretions analysed for influenza virus, in four influenza seasons between 2010 and 2014 (Buchan S et al. PLOS One 2017. Those who had been fully or partially vaccinated were less likely to be positive for the virus (vaccine effectiveness for full vaccination 60% (95% CI 44% to 72%), partial 39% (95% CI 17% to 56%)). It was most effective in those aged 2–5 years. Effectiveness varied between seasons.

This shows an effect, but doesn’t prove that vaccination reduces admissions. However the second study, from the US, shows that it has the potential to reduce flu-related mortality across the country (Flannery B et al. Pediatrics 2017. doi: 10.1542/peds.2016–4244). Using national databases, the authors were able to link 291 deaths from …

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