Washington: Researchers at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Institute (VIDI) at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have concluded that an aggressive vaccination program that first targets children, and ultimately reaches 70 percent of the US population, would mitigate pandemic influenza H1N1 that is expected this fall.
The researchers came to the above conclusion after conducting computer modelling and analysis of observational studies.
Their study includes the first estimate of the transmissibility of pandemic H1N1 influenza in schools.
And the researchers recommends that 70 percent of children, ages 6 months to 18 years, be vaccinated first, as well as members of high-risk groups as identified by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
These groups include health care and emergency services personnel and those at risk for medical complications from pandemic H1N1 illness such as persons with chronic health disorders and compromised immune systems.
Two doses of vaccine, delivered three weeks apart, may be needed to confer adequate protection to the virus.
Corresponding author Dr. Ira Longini, and colleagues emphasized that a combination of factors - the availability of an effective vaccine to protect people against pandemic H1N1, coupled with the timing of the outbreak - will determine how quickly the epidemic can be slowed.
It was estimated that to bring the epidemic under control aggressive vaccination of the population must begin at least a month before the epidemic peak, concentrating on children as much as possible.
"Our estimates of pandemic H1N1 in households, schools and in the community places this virus in the higher range of transmissibility," said Dr. Yang Yang, first author of the paper and a staff scientist at VIDI.
The authors concluded that although social distancing and the use of antiviral medicines can be partially effective at slowing pandemic flu spread, vaccination remains the most effective means of pandemic influenza control.
The study has been published in Science Express, the early online edition of the journal Science.