Rochester Leads National Study Aimed at Boosting Flu Vaccine Supply

December 09, 2004

            Doctors around the nation are launching a flu vaccine study this week in an effort to prevent another flu vaccine shortage like the one that put flu shots in scarce supply this year.

            Rochester vaccine expert John Treanor, M.D., professor of medicine and director of the Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit at the University of Rochester Medical Center, is leading the national study that will include approximately 1,000 participants at four sites around the nation, including Rochester.

            Treanor and colleagues are looking at a flu vaccine that is widely used around the world. Since 1992 more than 126 million doses of Fluarix, made by GlaxoSmithKline, have been distributed in dozens of countries around the world. But the vaccine is not currently licensed for use in the United States and must be examined in a study like the one Treanor heads before it could be made available here. While several flu vaccines are licensed in some parts of the world, most people in the United States receive only one of two vaccines, leaving the nation vulnerable when one of the supplies becomes unavailable.

            In Rochester, doctors and nurses plan to vaccinate 263 healthy people before Christmas. Participants will visit the vaccine center at Strong Memorial Hospital twice, once for the initial shot and once three weeks later to have their blood tested for antibodies against the flu. Participants will keep a diary of any symptoms during the three-week period.

            Four out of five participants will get Fluarix, while one out of five will receive a placebo injection, a “dummy” shot. Next month, participants who received the placebo will be given the chance to receive a real flu shot if they wish.

            In addition to Rochester, the study will be done at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, the University of Maryland, and Baylor Medical College in Texas. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, is funding the study.

            Healthy people from ages 18 to 64 who have not received a flu shot this year are eligible. Anyone interested in participating should call the vaccine unit at (585) 273-3990.

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