03:12am Friday 20 October 2017

NIH-Supported Scientists Examine Adjusting Flu Shot for Tots

ST. LOUIS – Saint Louis University is conducting a National Institutes of Health-sponsored clinical trial that studies whether a higher dose flu vaccine given to older children and adults is safe and more effective than the current lower dose given to tots.

Edwin Anderson, M.D.

“Babies between 6 and 35 months currently receive half of the dose of the flu vaccine that is given to older children and adults. Because there’s no medical evidence that babies should receive a smaller dose of vaccine, we’re studying what dose of seasonal influenza vaccine works best to protect little ones from flu,” said Edwin Anderson, M.D., research professor in the division of infectious diseases at Saint Louis University School of Medicine who is leading the clinical trial for SLU’s Center for Vaccine Development.

“It’s possible that we’re not giving babies a strong enough vaccine because at some point in the past someone just halved the adult dose and made a recommendation… rather than one based in real science.”

The study continues research on influenza vaccines in young children begun last year at Saint Louis University and at other Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Units (VTEUs) funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

“This year’s seasonal influenza vaccine is the same as last year’s, which gives us an opportunity to enroll a larger number of young children in our study. Any time you can increase your sample size, you increase the validity of your data,” Anderson said.

The study seeks to recruit about 270 children between 6 and 35 months old from sites across the nation. About 30 are expected to be enrolled at Saint Louis University’s Center for Vaccine Development, which, like other VTEUs, will test the safety and measure the body’s immune response to two strengths of this year’s flu vaccine — 0.25 ml, the current dose, and 0.5 ml.

Anderson said younger children, whose immune systems are less mature than older children and adults, might build up more infection fighting proteins if they are given the full dose of flu vaccine. In addition, because of improvements in the vaccine, health scientists do not expect to see an increase in side effects or safety issues.

“The bottom line is safety,” Anderson said. “Through our research, we are making sure the higher strength of vaccine is safe for babies.”

Because babies between 6 and 35 months get the flu more frequently than older children and adults, with significantly more doctor visits and hospitalizations, it’s critical to find the most effective dose of vaccine for tots, Anderson added.

Influenza may lead to or contribute to ear infections in young children. And with symptoms that usually are worse than those from other viral infections such as the common cold, influenza can be prevented by receiving a flu vaccine, he added.

On the forefront of research in fighting and preventing infectious diseases, Saint Louis University has received federal funding as a Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit for two decades. The Saint Louis University VTEU evaluates new and improved vaccines for diseases such as influenza and novel ways of delivering those vaccines.

Please visit the ClinicalTrials.gov website for more information on this study.

To learn more about the vaccine research being conducted at Saint Louis University, call (314) 977-6333 or email vaccine@slu.edu.


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