Giving flu vaccines to as many school-age children as possible, by delivering it at school, for example, can help protect an entire community from flu, according to a new study.
Researchers led by Dr. W. Paul Glezen at Baylor College of Medicine created a study in which live attenuated influenza vaccine, which is a nasal spray, was offered to children at elementary schools in eastern Bell County, Texas, in the fall and early winter of 2007. Almost 48% of the elementary-school children were vaccinated. The researchers then recorded cases of flu infection that season that were severe enough to require medical care in the hospital, clinic or emergency service. The intervention community was compared with a similar community in which flu vaccination took place in the usual manner.
Despite the fact the vaccine that year was not a good match for the actual flu viruses that emerged, the study found that systematically immunizing the school kids helped everybody except people in the 12-to-17 age group. For example, compared with the non-study site, children younger than age 5 had a 6% lower rate of flu cases severe enough to require medical treatment and children ages 5 to 11 had an 8% reduction. People ages 18 and older had reductions in these severe flu cases that ranged, depending on their age group, from 10% to 15% compared with the other community.