Spray away! Nasal flu spray vaccine shown to reduce influenza

February 16, 2007

A 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. The results of the study were published in the December 14, 2006 edition of The New England Journal of Medicine.

A 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. The results of the study were published in the December 14, 2006 edition of The New England Journal of Medicine.

"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, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and head of the division of general pediatrics at the University of Maryland Hospital for Children, and principal investigator of the study.

A total of 2,717 healthy students over age five were given the nasal spray influenza vaccine. The study was conducted during the 2004 flu season, and included children from 24 public elementary schools in Maryland, Texas, and Minnesota, and four private schools in the Washington state. 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% 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% 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 eight to 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.