Flu vaccine 'over-hyped' and wastes taxpayer's money
Experts say British public have been mislead over the effectiveness of flu jab given to millions each year
THE FLU vaccine given to millions of people each year at a cost of £120 million is a waste of taxpayer's money because the protection it offers is "over-hyped", scientists say.
Up to 4,000 people, most of them elderly, die of flu-associated illnesses in a mild year, but the vaccine offered free by the NHS to everyone over 65 is of "limited effectiveness", says The Independent.
The paper quotes health expert Tom Jefferson as saying the government should be held accountable for "wasting taxpayer's money" on the annual multi-million pound vaccination campaign which it describes as a "bonanza for drug companies".
A report published by the Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota says the tendency of governments to exaggerate the effectiveness of the flu vaccine misleads the public and hinders the development of new, better vaccines. Failure to tell the truth about the vaccine's efficacy also risks undermining public confidence in mass immunisation.
CIDRAP's director, Michael Osterholm, says he is a "strong proponent" of vaccination in general, but feels the flu vaccine has been "over-promoted".
"For certain age groups … its effectiveness has been severely limited relative to what has been previously reported," he adds.
Douglas Fleming from the Royal College of General Practitioners's Influenza Monitoring Unit says better vaccines are needed particularly for the elderly. He agrees the current vaccine has been "over-hyped by many people".
But others believe it is still worth getting a flu jab because at present "it's the best we have". A spokesman for the Department of Health said the effectiveness of the vaccine had been reviewed within the last year and "there is no doubt" the programme saves lives.