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Children "key to pandemic control"

Flu pandemics might be best controlled by targeting children for vaccination, according to Warwick University researchers.

This would not only help protect those at greatest risk - and create a level of safeguard for their parents - but also be a more efficient use of resources.

Their report, published in the journal Epidemiology and Infection, argues that "such steps may support other control measures such as social distancing, antiviral drugs or quarantine".

Exploiting the herd immunity effect would need "significantly less" vaccine to help control the spread of the virus than if it were offered to everyone, they say.

They conclude: "The larger the household - which in most cases means the more children living at home - the more likely the infection is to spread.

"This doesn't mean that everyone in the household needs to be vaccinated, but suggests that vaccination programmes for children might help control a potential pandemic."

The research assumes that the disease will spread fastest in densely-populated areas, and suggests that urban conurbations be given priority when tackling the spread.

Copyright © Press Association 2009

Epidemiology and Infection

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"What a good plan. Children know no physical or territorial boundaries with others, which means there is a higher chance of transmitting bugs and viruses, as most with experience in primary care and epidemiology will know. Vulnerable people should still be vaccinated, but if people don't have the stress and worry about their most precious little commodities, they are more likely to be able to fight the disease themselves, and are less likely to panic over media hype and inaccuracy.  My children are grown up, so now my first concern is always for my grandson, who is so much more vulnerable. It is hard to explain to a 5 year old about the transmission of viruses and the significance of flu, as I am sure many parents - and grandparents - will agree. It would be good to have this burden lifted from our shoulders. We should be protecting our futures
first." - BL, Swindon