A new research has suggested that targeting children for vaccination could help control the spread of pandemics such as the current swine flu.
The study suggests that targeting kids is the best way of using limited supplies of the vaccine currently being developed.
Ever since the World Health Organization declared a pandemic global H1N1 swine flu, countries are looking at ways to control the spread of the disease.
These measures include the use of antiviral treatments, such as oseltamivir, social distancing (for example, closing schools and stopping public transport) and quarantining infected individuals.
Pharmaceutical companies have also stepped up production of vaccines effective against this particular strain of the virus.
However, if the spread of the disease increases significantly in the autumn, as some scientists predict, it is unlikely that supplies of the new vaccine will be sufficient to vaccinate entire populations.
Dr Thomas House and Professor Matt Keeling from the University of Warwick have used computer modelling to predict the spread of pandemic influenza and to look at ways of controlling it effectively, particularly where supplies of vaccine are not sufficient for universal coverage.
The researchers showed that the disease is likely to spread fastest in densely populated conurbations, suggesting that these should be priority areas for tackling the spread.
However, they showed that vaccinating entire households at random was an inefficient use of resources; instead, vaccinating key individuals offered sufficient protection to others in their household.
Although a simplification of the complex reality of pandemic flu transmission, the researchers believe their model provides a robust argument for vaccinating children.
"Our models suggest that the larger the household - which in most cases means the more children living at home - the more likely the infection is to spread," said Keeling.
"This doesn't mean that everyone in the household needs to be vaccinated, but suggests that vaccination programmes for children might help control a potential pandemic," Keeling added.
The researchers argue that targeting children for vaccination would not only help protect those at greatest risk of exposure to the virus, but would also offer protection to unvaccinated adults.
This so-called "herd immunity" effect would mean that significantly less vaccine would be necessary to help control the spread of the virus than if it were offered to everyone.
The study has been published in the journal Epidemiology and Infection.