Inoculating children can prevent influenza from spreading, experts say
TUESDAY, March 9 (HealthDay News) -- Children who get a flu shot help prevent flu from spreading in their communities, Canadian researchers say.
"By immunizing children and adolescents, there is a substantial protective effect in people who themselves were not immunized," said lead researcher Dr. Mark Loeb, a professor of pathology and molecular medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.
"If you can immunize enough children and adolescents, you can achieve herd immunity and protect people who might not be vaccinated," he added.
Each year in the United States, seasonal flu kills some 36,000 people and hospitalizes 200,000, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recently, the CDC expanded its recommendations for flu shots to include every child over 6 months and all adults.
The Canadian report is published in the March 10 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
To see if vaccinating children could prevent the spread of flu in a community, Loeb's team studied 49 Hutterite colonies in western Canada. From 60 to 120 people live in single family homes within each of these tightly knit religious communities, but they interact like an extended family, the researchers noted.
For the study, 947 youngsters between the ages of 3 and 15 received a flu vaccine, while 2,326 community members did not. The children were randomly assigned to get flu vaccine or hepatitis A vaccine, which was used as a control.
The researchers found that during the 2008-2009 flu season, 3.1 percent of unvaccinated people living in communities where children got flu shots came down with the flu, as compared to 7.6 of the people in communities where children didn't get the flu shot.
The indirect protection from the flu granted by children getting vaccinated was 61 perce
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