Young Children Need Flu Protection

In many homes, just talking about getting a flu shot will send children into a tear-streaked panic. It’s hard to ignore their cries and pleas to avoid going to the doctor’s office to get vaccinated.

Maybe you give in by telling yourself: It’s just the flu.

Indeed, few children die from flu-related complications. But federal health officials say that many of the 115 children who died during the last flu season would still be alive if they had been vaccinated.

“It’s vital that children get vaccinated,” said Dr. Lyn Finelli, chief of the Surveillance and Outbreak Response Team for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We know the flu vaccine isn’t 100 percent effective, especially not in children with high risk medical conditions. That’s why it’s essential that these two medical tools be fully utilized. Vaccinate first; then use influenza antiviral drugs as a second line of defense against the flu. Right now we aren’t fully using the medical tools at our disposal to prevent flu illnesses and deaths in children.”

A new report from the CDC reveals some important facts about children and the flu. For instance, younger children are more at-risk for dying from flu-related causes.

Forty-six percent of the children who died during the last flu season, which ran from September 2010 to August 2011, were under the age of 5. Twenty-nine percent were younger than 2.

The other half of the children who died had a medical condition that put them at greater risk for flu complications, according to the CDC.

Of the 57 children who had a medical condition and died from the flu:

  • 54 percent had a neurological disorder
  • 30 percent had pulmonary disease
  • 25 percent had a chromosome or genetic disorder
  • 19 percent had congenital heart disease or other cardiac disease

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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