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Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy children

Jefferson T, Rivetti A, Di Pietrantonj C, Demicheli V, Ferroni E
Published Online: 
15 August 2012

Children (< 16 years old) and the elderly (above 65 years old) are the two age groups that appear to have the most complications following an influenza infection. Influenza has a viral origin and often results in an acute respiratory illness affecting the lower or upper parts of the respiratory tract, or both. Viruses are mainly of two subtypes (A or B) and spread periodically during the autumn-winter months. However, many other viruses can also cause respiratory tract illnesses.

Diffusion and severity of the disease could be very different during different epidemics. Efforts to contain epidemic diffusion rely mainly on widespread vaccination. Recent policy from several internationally-recognised institutions, recommend immunisation of healthy children between 6 and 23 months of age (together with their contacts) as a public health measure.

The review authors found that in children aged from two years, nasal spray vaccines made from weakened influenza viruses were better at preventing illness caused by the influenza virus than injected vaccines made from the killed virus. Neither type was particularly good at preventing 'flu-like illness' caused by other types of viruses. In children under the age of two, the efficacy of inactivated vaccine was similar to placebo. It was not possible to analyse the safety of vaccines from the studies due to the lack of standardisation in the information given, but very little information was found on the safety of inactivated vaccines, the most commonly used vaccine in young children.