Wide-scale study of flu vaccine's effectiveness in European children needed

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A wide-scale study of the effectiveness of flu vaccine in children is needed in Europe to fully assess the benefits, not only in keeping the kids from getting sick, but limiting the spread of flu to adults.

That is the conclusion of a doctor at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, writing in the December issue of The Lancet Infectious Disease journal based in London.

Dr. Mark C. Steinhoff, director of the Global Health Center at Cincinnati Children's, notes that while studies in the United States have proven the effectiveness of flu vaccine in children, the same has not been done in most of Europe.

In the Lancet commentary he was invited to write because of his international standing as a vaccine expert, Dr. Steinhoff notes that research findings suggest more study is needed to demonstrate the value of flu vaccine in European children.

"Such a study would be an opportunity to assess the cost effectiveness of a strategy for universal immunization for influenza in children and the broader effect of such a strategy on families and communities," Dr. Steinhoff writes.

During some flu seasons in the United States, as many as 12 percent of children are taken for a clinic or emergency room visit with flu symptoms. In addition, children are a significant source of the spread of the flu virus to others, including those at high risk, either young playmates or the elderly. The working time loss ofparents who must care for sick children can also be significant, Dr. Steinhoff notes.

"Several studies in North America and Japan have shown that immunization disrupts flu infection both within the family and in the community," Dr. Steinhoff writes. "Studies of young children in Finland and elsewhere suggest that yearly immunization for influenza in young children is probably cost-effective."

The recommendation in the United States since 2008 has been one of universal vaccination for children ages six months of 18 years. For several years, according to Dr. Steinhoff, Ontario, Canada, has provided universal immunization for children older than six months and studies there have shown reduced morality and health-care use.

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