Spring-Fall Flu Shots Tested for Kids (cont.)
"I don't want practitioners to adopt this until the study is complete because we have not tested this schedule when the vaccine antigens changed from year to year. The key result will be what happens this year when the antigens change," Walter said.
The CDC recommends that children younger than nine years old should receive two doses of inactivated flu vaccine if not previously vaccinated, because they do not develop a strong immune response to a single dose. Physicians are advised to administer the two shots one month apart. This dosing schedule strains the capacity of primary care centers and may delay full vaccination for children until flu season is already underway, Walter said.
Children in the standard fall group completed their immunizations two months later than the spring-fall group during the study. Ninety-five percent of children in the spring-fall group received two doses by Oct. 2, while 95 percent of those in the standard group finished two doses by Dec. 2.
Vaccinating children less than two years old is especially important because they are more likely to develop flu complications requiring hospitalization. For example, gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are much more common in children than adults. Children are also contagious longer than adults, shedding virus for more than a week.
"This new schedule could potentially increase rates of influenza immunization in young children, a group at high risk for complications of influenza," said Janet Englund, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington and Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center.
Closely-spaced clinic visits can also be inconvenient for parents. A survey of parents who participated in the study found 66 percent preferred the spring-fall schedule to the standard schedule. Eight percent had no preference, and 26 percent preferred the standard two doses in fall.
"Providing influenza vaccine to children at the same time as other childhood vaccines on a spring-fall schedule was preferred by parents and decreased their number of office visits," Englund said.
The study also examined flu vaccine safety in young children. There were no severe adverse events associated with the vaccine during the study. The most common side effects were irritability, sleep change, low grade fever and pain and tenderness at the injection site. There were no differences in side effects between the spring-fall group and the standard fall dose group of toddlers.
"This suggests the vaccine is pretty well-tolerated in this age group," Walters said.
Co-authors on the study include Mary Fairchok, M.D. of the Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash.; Kathleen Neuzil, M.D., University of Washington; and Arnold Monto, M.D., University of Michigan.
Source: Duke University Press Release, October 2, 2004 (www.dukehealth.org)
Last Editorial Review: 10/4/2004