, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 199-209
Date: 21 Aug 2012

Role of Influenza Vaccine For Healthy Children in the US

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Abstract

Influenza infection is associated with significant morbidity and mortality in adults, but the highest attack rates for influenza regularly occur in children, particularly those in preschool and elementary school. The consequences of influenza in this younger population — increased rate of hospitalization in those younger than 2 years of age and serious associated morbidity — have been underestimated. Children are also the critical link for spreading influenza in the community. Recent data suggest that mass influenza vaccination of healthy children would not only protect recipients, but also may reduce the burden of influenza throughout the community.

During the past 3 decades, efforts to control influenza have focused on the use of an injectable trivalent inactivated vaccine (TIV) in high-risk persons. The vaccine is ‘safe’ and effective, but its acceptance and uptake by patients and healthcare providers have been modest at best. A new intranasal, live-attenuated, trivalent cold-adapted influenza virus vaccine (CAIV-T) [FluMist™] is ‘safe’, well tolerated, immunogenic, and efficacious in preventing influenza illness in healthy children.

Compared with TIV, CAIV-T is easier to administer and should be more readily acceptable, particularly for mass immunization campaigns. CAIV-T also induces a broader immune response and has demonstrated protection against at least three different variant influenza strains. This vaccine is particularly well suited for routine immunization of children and thus offers the potential for greatly improved control of influenza. However, the acquisition cost per single dose of FluMist™ for the 2003–4 season (≈$US46) significantly hampered its uptake both by practitioners and by managed care organizations, even despite a later ≈$US25 rebate offer.

For the 2004–5 season, CAIV-T is likely to be only modestly more expensive (average wholesale price: $US16.50 for non-returnable doses, $US23 for returnable doses) than TIV. The practitioner must consider the benefits of FluMist™ compared with its likely higher vaccine cost and the issues of reimbursement among multiple insurers.