In 2012, the UK expanded its flu vaccination programme to include 2-17 year olds. This decision was partly based on the findings of research using routine flu surveillance data, which demonstrated the important role that children play in the spreading of flu.

Why was this work needed?

Flu is a widespread infectious disease with unpleasant symptoms. Although it rarely causes long term harm in healthy adults, it still causes a significant number of deaths, particularly among the over 65s.

What happened?

The researchers used laboratory results collected by Public Health England, as well as other patient data, to estimate the numbers of people in different age brackets that caught flu. They then used this information to assess the potential benefits of extending the UK flu vaccination programme.

What were the benefits?

This study provided the evidence for the UK rolling out free flu vaccination to all 2 – 17 year olds by showing the high levels of flu infection in this age group. This partly benefits the children themselves, but particularly reflects their role in passing on the disease to others. By vaccinating this young age group, there is a significant benefit to the population as a whole.

What type of data was involved?

This research used a range of data to estimate the number of people diagnosed with flu, in particular Public Health England laboratory reports. It also drew on Hospital Episode Statistic (HES) data and GP data from the Royal College of General Practitioners Weekly Returns Service.

The data sources were de-personalised.

Who funded and collaborated on this work?

This study was funded by the Department of Health.

Where can I go for more information?

Flu vaccines for all children

JCVI statement on its position on the annual influenza vaccination programme 16 November 2011

The burden of influenza in England by age and clinical risk group: a statistical analysis to inform vaccine policy