Flu vaccines for younger population may break cycle

A computer modeling analysis published in Vaccine on Tuesday shows that children in school and young adults are responsible for most cases of flu transmission.

The study focused on ways of breaking the cycle of transmission, since the best way to prevent the flu is to not catch it in the first place. Breaking this cycle of transmission is key, and in order to do that, younger age brackets would have to be the focus of vaccination programs.

"In most cases, the available flu vaccine could be used more effectively and save more lives by increasing the number of vaccinated children and young adults," Jan Medlock, a co-author of the study and researcher with the Department of Biomedical Sciences in Oregon State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, said.

In the United States, only about one-third of the population receives a flu vaccination each year. Previous efforts have focused on getting the elderly and those with high risk of death and disease flu vaccinations, but the results show that targeting a younger age group may be more beneficial.

"Clearly we would want people at high medical risk to get a flu vaccine as long as it is abundant," Medlock said. "But what we're losing in our current approach is the understanding that most flu is transmitted by children and young adults. They don't as often die from it, but they are the ones who spread it to everyone else."