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Flu vaccine in children stops community spread

By Nigel Praities

Routinely vaccinating children against influenza would have a major impact on limiting the spread of flu to others in the community, say Canadian researchers.

They studied a group of 947 children and adolescents aged 36 months to 15 years living in a series of isolated rural communities in Canada. They randomised colonies of children to either receive influenza vaccine or a hepatitis A vaccine, as a control – and then studied the spread of flu in each area.

Over the winter they found 3.1% of unimmunised contacts had influenza infection in areas where children had received the flu vaccine. This compared with 7.6% in the areas where children had received the control hepatitis A vaccine.

The researchers concluded that this showed it ‘may be advantageous' to immunise school aged children in order to reduce the community transmission of influenza.

Study leader and professor of pathology and molecular medicine at McMaster University, Canada, Professor Mark Loeb, said: ‘Particularly, if there are constraints in quantity and delivery of vaccines it may be advantageous to selectively immunise children to reduce community transmission of influenza.'

JAMA 2010; 303: 943-950

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