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Children’s flu shots can benefit community

Shots protect others from disease, too


 

Giving flu shots to schoolchildren can protect an entire community from the disease, according to a study done in 49 Hutterite farming communities in Western Canada. While other studies have shown “herd immunity,” none have been so solid as they were done in less remote locations, where other sources of the flu might pass through. What’s more, only one other study, now 42 years old, immunized over 80 per cent of the community’s children, as was done in this one. Paid for by the Canadian and U.S. governments, the study was done by scientists from many Canadian universities and St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Tennessee. Lead investigator, Dr. Mark Loeb of McMaster University, made “hundreds of calls” to 187 Hutterite communities in the prairies, asking them to join. While they don’t use television or radio, they do drive cars and modern tractors. They also live in communities of up to 160 people, and own everything jointly, attending their own schools, eating in one dining hall, and having little contact with the outside world. In 25 of the colonies that participated, all children aged 3 to 15 got flu shots in late 2008. In 24 others, they got a hepatitis A vaccine instead (that illness wasn’t studied). By last June, more than 10 per cent of all adults and children in colonies that got the placebo had lab-confirmed seasonal flu, while less than 5 per cent in colonies that got the shots did. Researchers concluded there was a 60 per cent “protective effect” for the community.

New York Times


 
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