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Old 04-16-2009, 09:32 AM   #1
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Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: U.K.
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Default Ministers urged to extend free flu jabs to over 60s

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 12:02 AM on 16th April 2009

Government advisers claim the current age limit of 65 for free flu jabs is too high
Free flu jabs should be made available to anyone aged 60 and over, Government advisers have recommended.
They claim that the current age limit of 65 is too high, and that vaccinating those between 60 and 64 would help reduce the number of hospital admissions caused by complications associated with the illness.

Minutes taken from the last meeting of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation influenza subgroup, which advises ministers on national policy, read: 'It was thought there is UK data to show a clear rise in hospitalisations in the over-50s and that vaccinating 60 to 64-year-olds was definitely worth considering.'

The group added that at least one study concluded vaccinating those aged 50 to 64 could be 'cost-effective' by reducing the rate of hospital admissions caused by flu.

However, the benefits of having regular flu jabs have already been called into question by U.S. researchers, who argue there is no firm evidence the vaccine prevents deaths in the elderly.

A study by the Health Protection Agency has also suggested that the jabs do not reduce hospital admissions from respiratory infections.

As well as the over-65s, anyone with serious heart and chest complaints such as asthma, kidney or liver disease, diabetes and lowered immunity are eligible to receive the flu vaccine free on the Health Service.

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Dr George Kassianos, spokesman on immunisation for the Royal College of GPs, told Pulse magazine, which published details of the meeting: 'For the past six years, I have been calling for the eligible age for NHS annual flu vaccination to be brought down to 50 years to ensure a much greater coverage of patients with chronic disease.'

Every year, more than 15million people in England receive the jab, with figures showing 73.5 per cent of over-65s were vaccinated last year.

Vaccine uptake for at-risk groups aged under 65 showed an increase from 42.1 per cent coverage in 2006 to
45.3 per cent in 2007/08.

The Department of Health said: 'Currently people aged 65 or over and those aged over six months with certain clinical conditions qualify for a free flu jab.

'The Chief Medical Officer's guidance for flu preparations next winter has not made any changes to these risk groups.'
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