Study links real-time data to flu vaccine strategies

December 8, 2009

Adaptive vaccination strategies, based on age patterns of hospitalizations and deaths monitored in real-time during the early stages of a pandemic, outperform seasonal influenza vaccination allocation strategies, according to findings reported Dec. 3 by researchers, including two from Arizona State University, in the online journal PLoS ONE.

Using data from the A(H1N1) influenza outbreak in Mexico earlier this year, the authors conclude that a modeling approach that targets specific age groups for vaccinations, could help countries develop policies to mitigate the impact of ongoing and secondary pandemic waves. Download Full Image

"These new data shed light on which age groups are at high risk of infection and transmission during a pandemic influenza outbreak," said mathematical epidemiologist Gerardo Chowell-Puente, an assistant professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change in ASU's College">">College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "Unlike seasonal vaccination strategies that target young children and seniors, our adaptive strategy based on early epidemiological data prioritized the young and adults between the ages of 20 and 59 years, which was based on the pattern of hospitalizations and deaths during the Mexican pandemic outbreak." 

The adaptive vaccination strategy relied on data reported to the Mexican National Epidemiological Surveillance System on hospitalization and deaths 25 and 37 days into the outbreak. The study's adaptive strategy yielded a 37 percent reduction in hospitalizations and 42 percent reduction in deaths if the vaccinations started on day 25 of the outbreak and reached 20 percent of the population. The benefits of the strategy were slightly lower on day 37 of the outbreak, providing a 35 percent reduction in influenza-related deaths and 22 percent reduction in hospitalizations when compared to seasonal influenza that targets traditional high-risk age groups (infants, young children, and persons 65 years and older).

"The adaptive strategy was found to be effective in reducing the number of hospitalizations and deaths during a pandemic influenza when vaccine resources are scarce," said Chowell-Puente. "Knowledge of age-specific rates is crucial in helping policymakers develop intervention policies that could help to save lives. If vaccine supplies are limited, targeting these age groups should be considered."

Chowell-Puente is co-author of the study "Adaptive vaccination strategies to mitigate pandemic influenza: Mexico as a case study," which appears in PLoS One, the online journal published by the Public Library of Science. Other authors include Xiaohong Wang with ASU's Mathematical and Computational Modeling Sciences Center; Cécile Viboud and Mark A. Miller with the Fogarty International Center, National Institutes of Health; and Stefano Bertozzi with Mexico's National Institute of Public Health and the University of California, Berkeley.

Chowell-Puente also is co-author of a study of the A(H1N1) influenza pandemic strain, which reported an age shift in the proportion of cases toward a younger population when compared with historical patterns of seasonal influenza in Mexico. Those findings were published June 29 online in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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Losing his sight gave ASU graduate his direction, choice of career

December 8, 2009

Five years ago, Chris Armenta noticed his vision had suddenly gone blurry while he was trying to read a clock on the wall. He rubbed his eyes, but the problem continued. Six months later, he had become legally blind from a rare and untreatable eye disease.

He was 21, and wasn’t prepared for the changes blindness would bring to his everyday life. Armenta says he naturally became quite depressed. He didn’t think he’d ever be able to read a book again, much less go to college.

But as he slowly regained his positive demeanor and learned to move forward in spite of his disease, he realized the impact his support system of care providers, family and friends had made on his life.

“I decided that I wanted to give back, and that’s why I went into social work,” he says. “I like being able to make positive changes in somebody’s life. There are people who need a little help, just like I did, to be able to help themselves.”

Now Armenta is graduating with summa cum laude honors and receiving a bachelor’s degree in social work. He plans to earn a master’s degree in social work and become a vocational rehabilitation counselor for the blind or visually impaired. Armenta is already well on his way to that career.

While at ASU, he interned at the Arizona Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, as well as the Arizona Department of Economic Security, providing counseling and case management to people who were dealing with a loss of vision.

“In my internship, I find myself using a lot of the skills I’ve learned in my courses and in my research, which feels great,” Armenta says. “I’m extremely excited to continue putting them to use.”

“Chris is one of the best students I've ever had in research,” says professor Layne Stromwall. “He's especially good at conceptualization and discussion of research topics.”

While at ASU, Armenta suffered another decrease in visual acuity. But he said he has come too far now to let that get him down. He draws inspiration from the strength-based perspective that he learned through his studies in social work.

“In social work, we say, ‘This is where you are now ... let’s build upon that and see how we can get you to where you want to be,’” he says.  

Media contact:
Corey Schubert

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