The Observer view on vaccination: against the evidence | Observer editorial

Public Health England’s representatives, clinicians and advocates agree on one thing: that there’s much to be said for routine vaccination against influenza and the other potentially life-threatening viral infections that have emerged in the past few years. But there’s also strong disagreement as to the effect that vaccination might have on the risk of more severe disease.

British children at higher risk of serious illness from flu Read more

Public Health England, England’s official national body for disease control, says there’s a “very strong evidence base” that vaccination cuts the risk of serious illness and death by 60%. But an estimated 10% of children under five died from flu last year, the highest number in more than 20 years. And the rate of severe illness among children with low levels of vaccination is in the 50s.

Public Health England in fact prioritises and funds vaccination programmes only for the most vulnerable populations. And among more affluent parts of the country, up to 70% of children are not even adequately vaccinated against flu.

The reasons for this disparity between the spread of flu and infections in highly immunised populations are complex and partly a question of access and socio-economic conditions – and much of this is embodied in the UK’s patchwork of vaccination policies.

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