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Influenza vaccine in 2016/17 was 'ineffective' in patients over 65

The influenza vaccine for 2016/17 had 'no significant effectiveness' in patients over 65, while effectiveness of the vaccine increased in children, Public Health England (PHE) data shows.

PHE said this highlighted the importance of high vaccination in children, which is also thought to indirectly protect other vulnerable age groups.

Last year’s nasal influenza vaccine reduced the risk of vaccinated children getting flu by 66% in the 2016/17 season an increase of 8% from the previous year, according to PHE.

The vaccine effectively reduced the risk of getting flu by 41% for 18-64 year olds, but ended up providing no significant protective effect in patients over 65, coming in at -6%.

PHE said that new vaccinations were being developed that may provide better protection for the elderly.

The flu vaccine nasal spray used in the children’s programme is the live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV), while the ‘inactivated’ vaccine is used in the adult programme.

Flu vaccine effectiveness

Jenny Harries, deputy medical director for PHE, said: ‘It is good news that last winter children were particularly well protected against flu with the vaccine nasal spray.

‘We know children can spread flu more than others and if we can keep them well it means that the infection is less likely to pass to those who are at high risk.

‘For the vast majority of us flu passes reasonably quickly, but for some, it can be extremely serious and even fatal. Vaccines are the best defence we have against flu and not only protect people who have received the vaccine but also those around them.

‘Achieving high coverage in children with a vaccine which has been shown to work well will offer those over 65 protection from flu, even though we did not find that the vaccine offered significant protection in this age group.’

From next year, children aged four will be covered under the school vaccination programme, rather than general practice.

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