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Sunday 23rd October 2016

Does flu vaccine work?

30th October 2006

01072006_Vaccination1.jpgAs the seasonal flu vaccination programme gets underway, an expert is calling for an urgent review of their clinical effectiveness.

More than 15 million jabs will be given this winter, costing in excess of £150m in England alone, plus £1.5m spent on advertising.

But as fears grow over delays caused by late delivery, Dr Tom Jefferson, coordinator of the vaccines field at the Cochrane Collaboration, which independently reviews healthcare provision, has questioned its effectiveness.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, Dr Jefferson said efforts to prevent or minimise the impact if the virus, has centered on the use of influenza vaccines. But he said the effectiveness of such vaccination programmes was compromised by the fact that influenza viruses mutated and varied from year to year and said there was little clinical evidence they had any effect on hospital stays or mortality rates, regardless of pre-existing conditions such as asthma.

He said most studies into the effectiveness of vaccines was low quality, and urged scientists to study the precise effects of vaccines. He added there was little comparative evidence on the safety of the vaccines.

Vaccines given to children under the age of two had the same effect as a placebo, he said.

His comments have been refuted by the Department of Health. The director of immunization at DH, Dr David Salisbury, said the vaccinations were the best way to protect vulnerable people against flu.

The injection is given to high-risk groups first, including the over-65s, people with respiratory conditions, such as asthma, and those with chronic conditions including diabetes.

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