I was thrilled to read the headline in today’s Washington Post: “Swine Flu Vaccine Works With One Shot.” Woohoo! I had just blogged about what a logistical nightmare it’s going to be for parents and pediatricians to get children vaccinated against 2 strains of flu virus this fall: the regular seasonal flu, and the new H1N1 swine flu, which is hitting children and teens hard. Wouldn’t it be great if children could get just one shot instead?
Alas, I read the fine print. The new clinical trial that found an immune response to swine flu after just one shot was conducted with adults. (Updated information about the swine flu vaccine trials can be found at flu.gov.) About 600 children and teenagers are participating in a nationwide test of the swine flu vaccine that started in August, but results aren’t out yet. Researchers are trying to figure out what dose will work best for children, and if there are dangerous side effects. It will also help determine if children will need two doses to gain immunity. But the presumption is that they will, since that’s been the case the first time children get a seasonal flu vaccine. So no news yet.
But the best way to stop the H1N1 swine flu pandemic would be to vaccinate children first, according to new research in the journal Science. That’s because children are very efficient spreaders of all flu viruses. A school-aged kid with flu would infect 2.4 other children at school, the researchers estimate. Still, 40 percent of flu transmission would happen at home, and just 20 percent at school. That makes me feel better about being the world’s biggest hand-washing nag, especially since the H1N1 vaccine might not be delivered this fall in time to do any good.
I’ve always insisted that my daughter and her friends wash their hands the minute they walk in the door. I try to do that, too. What’s your clever way to make sure children wash their hands often? And have you had any luck convincing the schools that frequent hand-washing will lead to happier, healthier children and teachers? If so, I’d love to hear about it.