Early Data Show H1N1 Vaccine Is Highly Effective
It was back-to-school time for much of the U.S. this week, as millions of students bustled into classrooms to start the new year. But compared with school years past, this academic season has been decidedly more fraught, since it marks what could be the full-scale return of the H1N1 influenza virus.
If previous flu pandemics are any measure, we may see spikes in infection once school gets under way. Kids in classrooms are major spreaders of infectious disease; they get sick, infect one another, then bring the disease back home. That's why officials are trying to get the new H1N1 vaccine tested and ready for use as soon as possible — the longer America's schoolchildren go unprotected, the bigger the H1N1 pandemic could become.
A new study in the Sept. 10 edition of Science makes the case for widespread and speedy immunization, suggesting that doing so could stifle the pandemic. A team of researchers led by Ira Longini, a biostatistician at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, used data from earlier H1N1 outbreaks this year in the U.S. and Mexico to model how the pandemic is likely to unfold this fall. The team found that by first vaccinating children, then adults, until 70% of the U.S. population is covered, officials would be able to all but stop the pandemic.