Column: Why flu jabs for kids could protect the elderly

It may be summer, but doctors are already ordering stocks of vaccine ready for the flu season.

The NHS pours a lot of money and effort into its annual drive to vaccinate as many people in the high-risk groups as possible, and it has a pretty decent record of doing so. So there’s a good chance that if you are over 65, live or work in a care home (or elsewhere in the health service), have a respiratory disease such as asthma or chronic bronchitis or a condition such as diabetes or heart disease, you will be offered a flu jab free of charge.

The question, however, is whether the NHS should be making such an effort to give you that jab. There have been several reports that vaccinating some of those groups classed as “high risk” does little to cut the risk of complications from flu, for example pneumonia. A paper published in The Lancet this month matched older, healthy people who had received the flu jab with others who hadn’t – and found no evidence that the vaccination reduced the risk of contracting pneumonia. Nor is this the first piece of research to sound a note of caution on the benefits of vaccinating some high risk groups.

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Margaret McCartney’s Blog

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A forum on healthcare policy and professional issues, by Glasgow-based GP and FT Weekend columnist Margaret McCartney.