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Informing national and international influenza vaccination policy

12 December 2014

UCL research has provided evidence about vaccination of different groups against influenza that has influenced policy and practice in the UK and North America.

Child being vaccinated

Research led by Dr Andrew Hayward (UCL Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology), in collaboration with others at Southampton University, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Public Health England, has informed national influenza vaccination and control policy.

Between 2003 and 2005, Dr Hayward led a seminal trial which showed that vaccinating nursing home staff against influenza led to a significant decrease in patient sickness and death during a normal flu season. This provided clear evidence in favour of vaccinating healthcare workers, and led to national recommendations to immunise staff in nursing homes and other social care settings. Further work examined attitudes to vaccination, and has informed local and national campaigns to increase uptake.

Since 2006, Hayward has led the MRC/Wellcome Flu Watch study, the world’s largest community study of influenza transmission and immunity. This study recruited households across England to monitor levels of illness over five flu seasons, via serological testing of pre- and post-season blood samples, weekly follow up to record any flu-like illness, and nasal swabs for those who reported such illness.

The results provide the most robust measures to date of influenza burden across different age groups and highlight the particularly high rates in children. This has contributed to the recent recommendation by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation of routine vaccination of all children against influenza every year and the decision not to recommend extension of vaccination to all adults aged over 50 years. 

Flu is an important preventable cause of hospitalisation and death, our research helps to inform policy to make vaccine available to those who need it most and shows the importance of healthcare workers being vaccinated to protect their patients. - Dr Andrew Hayward

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