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Spring-Fall Flu Shots Are Safe, Easier on Parents and Children

October 04, 2004

Seattle, Wash.: Giving flu vaccine to toddlers in the spring and fall guards against infection and is easier on parents than the fall schedule of two doses administered a month apart, found researchers from Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center, University of Washington and Duke University Medical Center.

Seattle, Wash.: Giving flu vaccine to toddlers in the spring and fall guards against infection and is easier on parents than the fall schedule of two doses administered a month apart, found researchers from Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center, University of Washington and Duke University Medical Center.

The study, authored in part by Janet Englund, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington and researcher at Children’s Hospital, compared the immune response in toddlers aged six to 23 months who received a flu shot in the spring and one in the fall, to the response of those who received fall shots separated by one month.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this year issued a recommendation for flu vaccination for all children in this age group. Children given spring-fall shots – up to six months apart – were as well-protected as those who received two shots in the fall, the study showed. The spring-fall group also completed their immunization earlier than toddlers in the fall group. A survey of parents showed 66 percent preferred the spring-fall schedule.

Children in the standard fall group completed their immunizations two months later than the spring-fall group during the study. Ninety-five percent of children in the spring-fall group received two doses by Oct. 2, while 95 percent of those in the standard group finished two doses by Dec. 2.

Vaccinating children less than two years old is especially important because they are more likely to develop flu complications requiring hospitalization. For example, gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are much more common in children than adults. Children are also contagious longer than adults, shedding virus for more than a week.

“This new schedule could potentially increase rates of influenza immunization in young children, a group at high risk for complications of influenza,” said Englund.

Closely spaced clinic visits can also be inconvenient for parents. A survey of parents who participated in the study found 66 percent preferred the spring-fall schedule to the standard schedule. Eight percent had no preference, and 26 percent preferred the standard two doses in fall.

“Providing influenza vaccine to children at the same time as other childhood vaccines on a spring-fall schedule was preferred by parents and decreased their number of office visits,” Englund said.

The study also examined flu vaccine safety in young children. There were no severe adverse events associated with the vaccine during the study. The most common side effects were irritability; sleep change, low-grade fever and pain and tenderness at the injection site. There were no differences in side effects between the spring-fall group and the standard fall dose group of toddlers.

Co-authors on the study include Mary Fairchok, M.D. of the Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash.; Kathleen Neuzil, M.D., University of Washington; and Arnold Monto, M.D., University of Michigan.

About Seattle Children’s

Consistently ranked as one of the best children’s hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report, Seattle Children’s serves as the pediatric and adolescent academic medical referral center for the largest landmass of any children’s hospital in the country (Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho). For more than 100 years, Seattle Children’s has been delivering superior patient care while advancing new treatments through pediatric research. Seattle Children’s serves as the primary teaching, clinical and research site for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The hospital works in partnership with Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation. For more information, visit www.seattlechildrens.org or follow us on Twitter or Facebook.

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