BALTIMORE, Dec. 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A national study led by
researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine finds giving
the nasal spray flu vaccine to elementary school students can significantly
help reduce the impact of influenza on children and members of their
family. The study compared families of children who attend schools where
the vaccine was given with families of children in schools not targeted to
receive the vaccine.
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The results of the study, published in the December 14, 2006, edition
of The New England Journal of Medicine, indicate that vaccinating school
children is an effective way of helping control the spread of influenza in
"Approximately 36,000 people nationwide die from influenza each year,
with the majority of those deaths in the elderly and the very young. In
addition, about 200,000 hospitalizations result from influenza infections
each year," says James King, M.D., a professor of pediatrics at the
University of Maryland School of Medicine and principal investigator of the
"Many studies have shown that children are the primary transmitters of
influenza to their families and communities. Our research shows that
school- based immunization is an effective way to vaccinate large numbers
of school children, and once they are protected, so are their families. The
nasal spray flu vaccine is well suited for this type of program," says Dr.
King, who is also head of the division of general pediatrics at the
University of Maryland Hospital for Children.
A total of 2,717 healthy students over age five (almost half of the
children in the targeted schools) were given the nasal spray influenza
vaccine. The study, which was conducted during the 2004 flu season,
included children from 24 public elementary schools in Maryland, Texas and
Minnesota and four private schools in the state of Washington.
The schools were grouped into clusters with respect to geography,
ethnicity and socioeconomic status. In each of the 11 clusters, one school
was selected as the intervention school and healthy students over the age
of five were offered nasal spray influenza vaccine. The other participating
schools were designated as control schools.
"Compared to the group with non-vaccinated school children, there was a
23 to 36 percent relative reduction in adult and child influenza-like
illnesses in the intervention school households," says Dr. King.
"In addition, there was a 25 to 40 percent reduction in medical office
visits, household use of prescriptions, humidifiers and over-the-counter
medications, as well as school days missed by elementary and high school
students in the intervention households and work days missed by adults.
This was a remarkable reduction given the one-week time frame we were
monitoring in our study, out of a typical 8-12 week flu season. Our results
indicated that elementary school children are amplifiers of influenza
activity in the community and vaccinating the children offers subsequent
protection for their family members," Dr. King adds.
"This study was an amazing cooperative effort among investigators and
schools in four states," Dr. King continues. "In Maryland alone, the
program has been duplicated in at least five public school systems. I
believe the ease of administering nasal spray vaccine without a needle may
enable us to administer the vaccine to more children. This program is an
excellent model for pandemic influenza preparedness or other biologic
This study was funded by MedImmune, Inc., developer and manufacturer of
FluMist nasal spray, which is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration. Dr. King worked closely with MedImmune, Inc., in the
clinical development of the FluMist nasal spray, which was used in this
study. He has received grant support from Ross Pharmaceuticals,
GlaxoSmithKline and MedImmune, Inc.
SOURCE University of Maryland School of Medicine