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Under-fives flu injections expected

A flu expert expects the government to agree to vaccines for under-fives this year following "muddled" policies after the last epidemic.

The handling of this year's outbreak has led to concerns including questions over the failure to immunise healthy children, said Professor John Oxford.

Vaccinating under-fives should be routine, just as in the US and Canada, said Professor Oxford but the government resisted calls for that stage of vaccination this year, with scientists claiming this age group already had a lot of immunity.

Experts at the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) also point to evidence suggesting youngsters are frequently suffering from respiratory illnesses other than flu.

Healthy under-fives were vaccinated last year against swine flu - the same dominant strain that is circulating this year.

Professor Oxford, who is also Professor of virology at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, said it was too late to begin a vaccination programme of under-fives this year.

"However, I would be surprised and disappointed if the government did not decide to vaccinate the under-fives next year," he added.

Copyright © Press Association 2011

Department of Health