Targeting children may be an effective use of limited supplies of flu vaccine, according to research funded by the Wellcome Trust and the EU. The study suggests that, used to support other control measures, this could help control the spread of pandemics such as the current swine flu.
As the World Health Organization declares a pandemic global H1N1 swine flu, countries are looking at measures 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.
In research published in the journal Epidemiology and Infection, 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, as might be expected, 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
|Contact: Craig Brierley|