Objective: To evaluate the immunogenicity of the influenza virus vaccine in children receiving short-course (a burst) prednisone therapy for acute asthmatic exacerbations.
Design: Prospective cohort study.
Setting: Outpatient pediatric clinic of a military medical center.
Patients: Children aged 6 months to 18 years requiring the 1996 influenza virus vaccine were eligible for the study. A total of 58 children were enrolled initially. The control group included 37 asthmatic children requiring less than 900 microg/d of inhaled prednisone and their siblings. The prednisone group included 21 children vaccinated at the beginning of a course of prednisone prescribed to treat an asthma exacerbation. Thirty-one control subjects (84%) and 19 patients in the prednisone group (90%) completed the study. Dropout was due to failure to come in for the postvaccination serum sampling.
Interventions: All study patients underwent immunization with the 1996-1997 trivalent subvirion influenza virus vaccine (FluShield; Wyeth Laboratories Inc, Marietta, Pa) containing 15-microg hemagglutinin antigens each of A/Texas/36/91 (H1N1) (A/H1), A/Wuhan/359/95 (H3N2)(A/H3), and B/Beijing/184/93 (B). The prednisone cohort received a burst of oral prednisone therapy (2 mg/kg per day for 5 days).
Main outcome measures: To assess the immunogenicity of the vaccine between both groups, at least a 4-fold rise in titer and end titers of at least 1:40 to each of the 3 antigens were compared. Mean changes in geometric titers to the 3 antigens were also compared.
Results: Proportion of patients in each group with at least a 4-fold rise in titer to each of the influenza antigens was as follows: for A/H3N3 antigen, 15 patients (79%) in the prednisone group vs 22 controls (71%) (P = .74); for A/ H1N1 antigen, 16 patients in the prednisone group (84%) vs 20 controls (64%) (P = .20); and for B antigen, 7 patients in the prednisone group (37%) vs 8 controls (26%) (P = .53). Proportion of patients in each group with an end titer of at least 1:40 to each of the antigens was as follows: for A/ H3N2 antigen, 18 patients in the prednisone group (95%) vs 28 controls (90%) (P = .69); for A/H1N1 antigen, 17 patients in the prednisone group (89%) vs 26 controls (84%) (P = .99); and for B antigen, 7 patients in the prednisone group (37%) vs 13 controls (42%) (P = .99). There were also no significant differences between groups in the mean changes in geometric titers to any of the 3 antigens.
Conclusions: Prednisone bursts did not diminish the response of asthmatic children to the 1996 influenza virus vaccine, compared with controls. Children can be effectively vaccinated against influenza virus while they are receiving prednisone therapy bursts for asthmatic exacerbations.