, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 65-71
Date: 31 Aug 2012

Universal Vaccination of Healthy Children Against Influenza

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Abstract

The incidence of influenza in children well exceeds that of the elderly and has been identified as the basis for 20% of doctor visits for children during the winter. The disease results in over 100 hospitalizations per 100 000 person-months in children <2 years of age. Furthermore, children serve as the major vector in the community; thus, influenza in children results in significant costs to society.

Although efficacious, the current intramuscular, inactivated influenza vaccine is infrequently used in children, and is currently targeted only at children at high risk and those who are household members of such individuals. Experts believe that vaccinating only high risk individuals has little impact on the cycle of annual epidemics, but that universal vaccination of children may very well have a substantial impact. Experimental data support this. A recently published cost-benefit analysis indicated that routine, school-aged vaccination through individual visits to a clinician would save $US4 per child vaccinated. A group program such as a school-based one would save $US35. One obstacle to universal vaccination includes the real and perceived resistance to the addition of yet another annual injection to the already crowded schedule of routine childhood immunizations.

Nearing licensure is an intranasal, live attenuated, cold-adapted intranasal influenza vaccine. Cold-adaptation prevents replication in the lower respiratory tract. Trials have demonstrated immunogenicity, safety, and tolerability in adults as well as children. Placebo-controlled trials have shown efficacy rates of 83 to 94%. This novel vaccine addresses obstacles to universal childhood immunization and would permit a program of routine use that would dramatically reduce transmission and stem epidemics of influenza.