- The Washington Times - Monday, May 31, 2004

The value of vaccinating children with FluMist, a vaccine administered through the nose instead of an injection in the arm, may extend beyond protecting the health of the child.

A University of Maryland School of Medicine study found that the vaccine may have added medical and financial benefits for everyone in the family.

The study says families with children who were inoculated with the vaccine lost fewer adult workdays, used less flu medication, and visited the doctor less often compared with those whose children were not inoculated.

“The whole theory of what happened is that the kids didn’t bring the flu home to the family,” said Dr. James C. King Jr., professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the lead investigator in the study.

The study was presented Wednesday at the National Foundation for Infectious Disease’s annual conference on vaccine research in Arlington.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the flu leads to about 36,000 deaths and 114,000 hospitalizations nationwide every year.

Those most at risk for serious complications include people older than 65, those of any age with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women and children ages 6 months to 23 months.

Last June, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved FluMist for use by only healthy people ages 5 to 49.

Made by Gaithersburg-based MedImmune Inc., FluMist was intended to provide children with a pain-free way to avoid the flu. A spokesman said the drug company is working with the FDA to get the vaccine approved for children younger than 5.

Because of the age restrictions, FluMist sales were lower than expected last year. The company also is considering lowering the $46 price, which is three times as much as a flu shot.

Funded by MedImmune, the study was conducted at Elmer A. Wolfe Elementary School in Union Bridge, Md. Thirty-nine percent of the school’s students — 185 children ranging from 5 to 12 — were vaccinated in school from Nov. 4 to Jan. 14.

Dr. King and his colleagues developed a questionnaire aimed at recording flu-related medical and financial information. They distributed it to parents in December at the peak of the flu season.

The questionnaires from Elmer A. Wolfe families were compared with those from two schools where inoculations of FluMist were not administered.

In the fall, Dr. King will continue the study by conducting in-school vaccination programs in four cities in Minnesota, Washington state, Texas and Maryland. He hopes to validate the study by expanding it to more geographical locations.

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