The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has endorsed the government's influenza vaccine campaign, saying it provides protection against influenza infection in "at risk" individuals.
A recent study by the HPA looked at the role of flu vaccination in reducing winter pressures in the NHS.
The study found that, of the elderly people who became ill with an acute respiratory infection such as bronchitis and/or emphysema, not just flu, in the winter (sufficient to consult NHS services), the ones that ended up in hospital were no less likely to have been vaccinated than those who were successfully treated in primary care.
The HPA has therefore suggested that effective winter planning needs additional measures to be taken as well as the annual flu vaccine campaign.
"However," a press statement from the agency says, "this does not negate the need for influenza vaccine, as other studies that were specifically designed to address this question show demonstrable benefits in reducing both infection and subsequent morbidity and mortality in the elderly, particularly in a season where the vaccine is well-matched and there is high viral circulation."