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September 25th, 2007

Flu vaccination, which costs the government around Ā£150m a year, may not after all save the lives of the older people who are the target of intensive annual campaigns, according to scientists.

A major review published online today concludes that flaws in the studies of the flu vaccine have led them to “greatly exaggerate vaccine benefits”. The authors of the report, in the medical journal the Lancet Infectious Diseases, add that there is not enough other evidence to work out to what extent flu jabs cut the death toll, if indeed they reduce it at all.

The annual flu vaccination campaign, which begins this month, targets people over 65 and those who have long-term health problems. Flu deaths usually peak in January or February.

It is usually claimed that flu jabs halve winter deaths among older people. But Lone Simonsen from George Washington University in Washington DC and colleagues write today that this statistic cannot possibly be correct. Flu is only responsible for 5% of winter deaths in older people. Click here for full report

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