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Report finds inactivated influenza virus vaccines effective in children

Every winter inevitably brings with it the flu season, but kids don't inevitably have to contract the flu, according to an article in the March 1 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, now available online. The report, which reviews the results of multiple studies on the effects of influenza vaccine on children, indicates that "killed" influenza vaccine is a safe and effective method to reduce the rate of influenza in children as young as 6 months old.

Killed or split-virus influenza vaccine refers to an inactive form of the flu virus in vaccine form, which is safe even for children with high-risk conditions, such as asthma, immunodeficiency, or chronic heart or lung conditions. Live virus influenza vaccine, containing a weakened form of the virus, is extremely effective in protecting people against the flu, but may have side effects in high-risk patients, and is not recommended for anyone under 5 or over 49 years old. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will officially begin recommending killed virus flu vaccine for children aged 6-23 months this fall.

According to the review, a flu vaccination can literally pay off in the long run. There is evidence that averting illness by vaccinating kids can save $10-$25 per child, compared to the cost of treating unvaccinated children who develop the flu. Vaccinating children against the flu may also protect adults from getting infected. Influenza can spread like wildfire through a school, where unvaccinated children are in close contact with each other, and then be carried home to infect family members, but children who are vaccinated may keep the virus from ever reaching their parents.

Despite the apparent benefits, relatively few people get their children vaccinated against the flu. "The knowledge of influenza causing problems in children is very new," said Dr. Frederick Ruben, lead author of the article and noted influenza expert. "It's not as benign a germ as has been appr
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Contact: Diana Olson
dolson@idsociety.org
703-299-0201
Infectious Diseases Society of America
18-Feb-2004


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