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Researchers at St. Louis University are testing an influenza vaccine “primer” that would be given about three months before the seasonal influenza vaccine to see if it improves effectiveness.

The university is looking to enroll 50 healthy children between the ages of 9 and 17 in the study, which would involve seven clinic visits and two phone calls.

Every year, thousands of people die from flu complications. Annual vaccination is recommended for everyone older than 6 months as the best protection.

Because the flu virus changes from year to year, the vaccine must be reformulated in anticipation of the changes. Vaccine effectiveness can vary, depending on how well scientists predict which flu strains will circulate and match the vaccine.

The new primer — called M2SR — may help overcome the guessing the game.

“Giving the M2SR vaccine as a priming vaccination before a currently licensed vaccine may broaden the immune response,” said Dr. Daniel Hoft, director of the university’s division of infectious diseases, allergy and immunology.

The experimental vaccine also has the potential to be a safer and more protective vaccine than the two types of licensed seasonal flu vaccines, Hoft said.

“We are studying both of these important potential improvements in influenza vaccination in the current trial,” he said. “The reasons to focus on pediatric populations for this M2SR vaccine are both to better protect children and to minimize viral transmission since children are a major cause for amplifying transmission.”

Study participants will receive $75 for each clinic visit and $10 for each phone call. To learn more about the study or to enroll, call 314-977-6333 or email vaccine@slu.edu.