A study by Alison P. Galvani, Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health, challenged the effectiveness of federal influenza vaccination guidelines.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that vaccines for both seasonal and H1N1 swine flu are allocated based on the probability that a particular demographic group will develop high-risk flu complications.
At the time of elevated public concern over swine flu, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended administration of the swine flu vaccine for pregnant women, people who live with or care for a child younger than six months old, healthcare personnel, people from 6 months to 24 years of age, and those who have certain other health problems associated with a higher risk for flu complications.
For seasonal flu, the ACIP recommended vaccination for children 6 months to 19 years of age, adults 50 and older, pregnant women, healthcare workers, and people who have other health problems that increase the risk for complications.
However, Galvani’s study, which was published in Science and co-authored by Jan Medlock of Clemson University, discovered that a different approach to vaccine allocation could significantly reduce the impact of both swine and seasonal flu on public health. The study found that the optimum benefits of vaccination would be achieved if schoolchildren and adults ages 30 to 39 were prioritized to receive flu vaccines.
According to one of the mathematical models developed by the study, ACIP recommendations for swine flu would lead to 1.3 million cases, 2,600 deaths, and a cost to the economy of $2.8 billion However, the Galvani model of vaccine distribution, in the same scenario, would result in a significant decrease. This model projects that swine flu would spread to only 113,000 people, causing 242 deaths, and would cost the economy $1.6 billion.
Despite the fact that these demographic groups are not the two most likely to experience complications, Galvani and Medlock write that they are the most effective to vaccinate because “schoolchildren are most responsible for transmission, and their parents serve as bridges to the rest of the population.”
Flu virus is spread through contact with respiratory droplets.