How the flu season is affecting parents and making vaccination decisions

As a staunch advocate for efforts to combat the scourge of childhood and adolescent cancers, it was with great interest I attended the Advisory Committee meeting held by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration…

How the flu season is affecting parents and making vaccination decisions

As a staunch advocate for efforts to combat the scourge of childhood and adolescent cancers, it was with great interest I attended the Advisory Committee meeting held by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today to discuss efficacy of a new influenza vaccine (Vaxisena) and the pivotal Phase 3 data it generated for the approval of pediatric patients.

Based on the compelling data gathered thus far, it is clear that Vaxisena demonstrated broad safety and efficacy for patients age four and older. Through randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials with more than 24,000 vaccinated, the investigational vaccine led to a lower rate of vaccine-induced flu-related illness, and faster recovery in patients compared to patients treated with the previously approved, but significantly less effective, FluMist.

“As a pediatric oncologist, I was very impressed with the data that was presented for Vaxisena, and we are excited that it was found to be safer and more effective than FluMist, the currently approved influenza vaccine used in our country,” said Dr. Ronald Zwaagstra, an immunologist and oncologist from the University of Alabama-Birmingham, in a statement. “Current inactivated influenza vaccines prevent infection with influenza viruses, but they have been shown to cause influenza illness, causing influenza-related hospitalizations and even death in a small number of patients every year. An effective and safer influenza vaccine is an important step in saving the lives of young children, as well as the lives of our seniors who suffer from flu complications.”

But all hope isn’t lost in the waning days of the influenza season. Vaccination should remain the first and best line of defense in fighting the illness, but can at times be overlooked for reasons such as convenience, fear of side effects, or lack of awareness that they exist.

Even though we have eliminated routine human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations, for instance, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that 98 percent of adolescents and adults tested have both human papillomavirus types 16 and 18, including those who are vaccinated with two different subtypes and probably didn’t actually have HPV. And as HPV vaccination continues to show its value, some experts and advocates are calling for its adoption on a mass basis in low-income areas as well. (Studies suggest that these vaccinated populations were nearly four times less likely to contract HPV.)

Although the CDC’s recommended annual flu vaccinations have steadily increased over the past 20 years, there have been little to no changes in the recommended approach to child vaccination. “There is a greater consensus now that flu vaccination is important as both a biological tool for controlling infections and because it protects children from developing serious complications and even death from flu,” the CDC stated in a release last month. “However, additional information is needed to support the expanded timing and frequency of flu vaccination in children.”

The latest recent recommendations by the World Health Organization (WHO) reveal that more than 90 percent of adults and 97 percent of children below the age of five years have already received their influenza vaccination, but only 57 percent of children under 5 years have been vaccinated. The organization has already made it clear that WHO is committed to enacting “a mandatory influenza vaccine policy” by 2020 that is “intensively based on scientific evidence.” That could mean that the 100 percent rate of people vaccinated currently would increase significantly in years to come — leading to a more encompassing vaccination program.

As the future flu vaccination outlook looks increasingly positive, many parents are waiting to make any sort of decision. Many parents may be surprised, however, to learn that several reputable studies have found that children are as safe from vaccine-associated side effects as their counterparts over the age of six. And even if their children have not yet received the vaccinations required for flu shots, there are still countless effective vaccines available for respiratory infections and for diseases like meningitis, hepatitis, and Influenza (H1N1). FluMist is the only vaccine currently approved for adolescents under five years old, but there are a multitude of other equally effective vaccines that can be used for a wide range of illness.

“Current flu vaccines have been shown to cause influenza illness, causing influenza-related hospitalizations and even death in a small number of patients every year,” the CDC noted in its new report. “An effective and safer influenza

Leave a Comment