Public Health

Swine Flu Vaccine Works In Kids, Too

Ten days after the government announced the new pandemic flu vaccine works better than expected in adults, officials say it performs well in kids too.

kids in the 1950s who got polio shots in the buns

Here's hoping the kids who need 2 doses of swine flu vaccine can opt for the arm AP Photo hide caption

itoggle caption AP Photo

But kids under 10 are not going to get away with just one shot or just one squirt in the nose, officials say.

And people seeking out the vaccine might have to be patient while it winds its way through the distribution chain.

The government just released a study of 600 youths aged 6 months to 18 years who received the vaccine.

Of those over 10 years old, 76 percent got good antibody levels within 10 days of a single shot, using a standard 15-microgram dose.

"Seventy-six percent is not so bad at all," says Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "It's pretty good, in fact."

But children under 10 years didn't respond as strongly to a single dose. So Fauci says they'll probably need two shots of the new vaccine, spaced three weeks apart. That's necessary for ordinary flu vaccine too, since younger children's immune systems don't respond as well to a vaccine they've never encountered before.

The vaccine in this federal study is made by Sanofi Pasteur, a French company. It's made from fragments of a killed swine flu virus.

An alternative vaccine called FluMist is made with live but weakened swine flu viruses. It's delivered in a nasal spray, and limited to people from two to 50 years old.

In children, the live-virus vaccine can produce a stronger immune response than the killed-virus shots do.

A spokeswoman for MedImmune, the maker of FluMist, says the company has submitted safety data on its new vaccine to the Food and Drug Administration. Efficacy results should be ready, she says, in a couple of weeks.

Scientists expect younger children will need two squirts of FluMist too. It can't be given at the same time as seasonal FluMist vaccine, so parents who choose this form will have to bring their children in four times to get fully protected against both seasonal and pandemic flu.

Something over three million doses of FluMist pandemic vaccine will be distributed in early October. Stocks of the killed-virus vaccine used in the study reported today will start coming out in mid-October.

Results on how the vaccine performs in pregnant women — also considered at higher risk from swine flu, along with children, young adults and those with chronic medical conditions — are expected sometime next month. A complete listing of groups with top priority to receive the pandemic vaccine is here.

Meanwhile, health officials say lots of ordinary seasonal flu vaccine is out there, and they urge everyone to get it while waiting for pandemic vaccine.

However, as always, flu vaccine distribution is uneven. Some places have it, others don't, depending on how early they placed their orders, who's ahead of them in line and other perennial mysteries in matching vaccine supply and demand.

Officials' advice: Don't give up. If your health provider or local pharmacy doesn't have seasonal flu vaccine yet, it'll be there soon.

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