Influenza is a highly infectious virus which affects the respiratory tract. Otherwise healthy individuals who contract the virus can usually expect to make a full recovery. However, for some groups, such as the very young, the elderly and those suffering from chronic illnesses, the virus may have serious consequences. Its impact on morbidity and mortality amongst these groups is significant; the ECDC estimates that each year the average number of people in Europe who die prematurely due to influenza infection is 40,0005 . The virus also places significant strain on health systems when its circulation is at its peak.
The inclusion of healthy children and adolescents within seasonal influenza vaccination programmes hitherto remains far less widespread than for the elderly or people with predisposing conditions. There are a number of historical reasons for this, including concerns over safety, effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness. This review looks at the history of seasonal influenza vaccination programmes which have included healthy people under the age of 18 and discusses whether the policy should be employed more widely in European countries.