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Immunize School Aged Children for Flu and Protect Us All

What ages to immunize to reduce the spread of infectious disease is an important public health topic of research. Recent evidence from a study published in PLoS and covered by the WSJ, suggests that for influenza the answer changes with the varying transmissibility of that particular strain. Currently, we immunize the young and old since they are at the highest risk for dying from flu and it's complications. The recent studies suggest that with a moderately transmissible influenza strain, immunizing the young will provide the most protection for the entire population.

This reminds me of how the Japanese were able to drastically reduce their rate of overall deaths when they immunized all school aged children. Unfortunately, the political will to continue this evaporated, and with the decrease in immunization rates of children, all-cause mortality returned to their previous levels. This suggests that immunizing the children protected the rest of the population including the elderly.

This is all the more sad as NEJM JournalWatch covers CDC reports that toddlers aren't getting immunized. "At least half of children between ages 6 months and 5 years aren't receiving influenza vaccine." The AP reports it as well.

It will be interesting to see how this evidence plays out in discussions at the NCIP who decides our national immunization policies. Here are their current policies. Will we "drain the swamp" as Dr. Reyes so richly illustrates, or continue to preferentially immunize the elderly as well. In a year with ample vaccine, we can immunize all - but what in a year with less supply?

via PLoS, CDC, Instapundit, WSJ, Kevin, MD, NYT, Connotea, FierceBiotech, Taraneh Razavi and Dr. Nancy Reyes.

Tailrank lists other commenters... as does the comments over at economist Greg Mankiw's blog.

Image via AndyInSouthAmerica

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About the Author


Dr. Schwimmer's blog explores the intersection of medicine, new technologies, and the Internet.