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Children's Physicians Say National Flu Vaccine Shortage Means Young Children and Chronically Ill Children Must Take Priority

Children's researchers will launch study of nasal flu vaccine for young children

In light of an unexpected worldwide shortage of flu vaccine this season, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh officials are recommending the vaccine be rationed for those who need it most, including young children and children with chronic heart and lung conditions.

The United States receives nearly all its flu vaccine from two manufacturers, Chiron Corp. and Aventis Pasteur. Chiron announced Oct. 5, 2004, that it is unable to release any of its flu vaccine, including 48 million doses planned for the United States, for the 2004-05 flu season.

"Because we are facing an unexpected shortage this season, we strongly urge pediatricians to ration the available vaccine for children age 6-23 months and children with chronic heart and lung conditions," said Marian Michaels, MD, an infectious diseases specialist at Children's. "These children are most at risk for developing severe and sometimes life-threatening complications from the flu. To further protect them, we also recommend that family members of these children be vaccinated."

Children's also is launching a new study of a nasal flu vaccine that may help alleviate the shortage locally, Dr. Michaels said. This month, Children's will begin a study of the safety and effectiveness of the next generation of FluMistT for children ages 6 months to 5 years old. This nasal vaccine is currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration only for use in children older than 5.

"The nasal vaccine is an excellent option for immunizing young children because it is easier to administer than a shot and it is painless. Our study will help determine whether it is effective in protecting young children," Dr. Michaels said.

Children's plans to enroll at least 100 children in the study, and the cost of the vaccine will be covered. Children in the double-blind, placebo-controlled study will be given both a nasal dose and an inoculation, only one of which will actually contain the flu vaccine. Researchers will watch the children closely for safety and conduct weekly phone evaluations of the children throughout the flu season to determine if they develop influenza or flu-like symptoms.

Flu season typically begins in late fall, peaks in January or February and is over by March or April. Each year, the flu kills 36,000 people and hospitalizes another 200,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last season, 152 children nationwide died from the flu, the vast majority of them unvaccinated. During the 2003-04 flu season, there were 122 laboratory-confirmed flu cases at Children's, compared with just 38 during the 2002-03 flu season.

Editor's Note: To participate in Children's flu study, please call toll-free 1-888-247-9588 or e-mail Melissa.Tian@chp.edu. Enrollment will begin Oct. 18, 2004, and continue for at least two weeks.

Contacts:
Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-5016, Marc.Lukasiak@chp.edu
Melanie Finnigan, 412-692-5016, Melanie.Finnigan@chp.edu

Last Update
February 22, 2008
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Last Update
February 22, 2008
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