One swine flu shot is enough for older youths, studies show

Younger children expected to need two over 21 days

By Lauran Neergaard
Associated Press / September 22, 2009

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WASHINGTON - Studies of the new swine flu vaccine show that children 10 and older will need just one shot for protection, but that younger children almost certainly will need two.

Protection kicks in for older children within eight to 10 days of the shot, just as it does for adults, the National Institutes of Health announced.

But younger children are not having nearly as robust an immune reaction to the swine flu vaccine, and it appears they will need two shots 21 days apart, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.

That is not a surprise, since the very young often need two doses of vaccine against regular winter flu the first time they are immunized against that version of influenza, too, Fauci stressed.

“This is acting strikingly similar to seasonal flu’’ vaccine, he said. “Overall, this is very good news for the vaccination program.’’

It means that most people in the United States will have to line up for influenza vaccinations twice this year instead of three times, once for the regular winter flu shot and a second time to be inoculated against swine flu, what doctors call the 2009 H1N1 strain.

But here is a twist: If a very young child happens to be getting their first-ever seasonal flu vaccination this year, that tot would need a total of four shots, two against regular flu and two against swine flu.

Once swine flu shots start arriving next month, it will be OK for children or people of any age to get one in each arm on the same visit, said Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But doctors already have supplies of regular flu vaccine, and the CDC wants people to go ahead and get that first inoculation out of the way now.

“This is going to be a complicated flu season,’’ she warned.

Also yesterday, the United States ordered more swine flu vaccine, bringing its eventual total to 251 million doses, up from the long-planned 195 million doses. That’s an ambitious undertaking for a country where fewer than 100 million people normally get a winter flu shot.

The extra orders were from Sanofi Pasteur’s Pennsylvania flu-shot factory and from Maryland-based MedImmune LLC, which makes a nasal-spray version.

In a separate development, Duke University researchers said they are developing a test to determine, with a mere drop of blood, who will get sick with the flu before the sniffling and fever set in. And they are turning to hundreds of dorm-dwelling freshmen this fall to see if it works.

Students will report daily whether they have any cold or flu symptoms. If they do, a team will swoop in to test not just the sneezer but, more important, seemingly healthy friends and hallmates who might be incubating the infection.

“We’re redefining the definition of being ill,’’ said Colonel Geoffrey Ling, a physician with the Defense Research Projects Agency, the Defense Department’s research arm, which came up with the idea.

The military faces huge problems when flu or other viruses sweep through crowded barracks, and knowing an outbreak was brewing could allow them to separate and protect those not infected. We’re not just talking about the challenge of replacing fevered soldiers on the day’s patrol. Your body may be slowing down even before that fever erupts, as it tries to fight off a brewing virus.

And flu is contagious up to 24 hours before people show symptoms.