Flu Vaccine Rates Among Children Lower Than Expected
January 12, 2013

Study Finds Low Rates of Children Obtaining Flu Vaccine

Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

47. That´s the number of states that have reported the spread of the flu in their region. Even though illness is affecting many areas, a new study discovered flu vaccine rates among children are lower than expected.

To begin, health officials have recommended children six months and older have the flu shot. The study, conducted by a team of investigators at Wake Forest Baptist Center, found, during a five-year period, less than 45 percent of children were given flu vaccines. The findings will be featured in the February online edition of the journal Pediatrics.

"Our research showed that one in six children under age 5 who went to an emergency department or clinic with fever and respiratory symptoms during the peak flu seasons had the flu," remarked the study´s lead author Dr. Katherine Poehling, who serves as the associate professor of pediatrics and epidemiology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, in a prepared statement. "Many of those illnesses could have been prevented by vaccination, the best known protection against the flu."

The study looked at population-based data of children younger than five years of age who were confirmed to have the flu. The data was pooled from three counties in Ohio, New York, and Tennessee and included five flu seasons from 2004 to 2009. In total, over 8,000 children were seen in clinic, inpatient, and emergency settings. In the article, the researchers noted children who were younger than six months had the highest rate of hospitalization due to the flu. While the rates of hospitalization due to the flu increased year by year, the overall flu vaccination did not change. In particular, the number of infants less than six months of age who were diagnosed with the flu rose from 28 percent in a previous study conducted between 2000 and 2004 to 48 percent in the current study.

Furthermore, the researchers found the flu was one of the main reasons related to emergency, outpatient, or hospital visits. They believe tools to help lower flu rates, such as antiviral medications and vaccinations, have not been utilized enough. The team of investigators concluded that more work is needed in terms of disseminating information about the flu and what resources are available. In addition, they believe it is important to publicize the current recommendation of flu vaccines for those who are ages six months and older.

"Parents should include a yearly flu shot to protect themselves and their children," continued Poehling in the statement. "The best way to protect infants too young to receive the influenza vaccine is for pregnant women, the infant's family members and contacts to get the shot, too."

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is currently high flu activity nationwide. The agency believes the flu season started early and advises individuals to take precautions against flu transmission. Besides getting a flu shot, people can take preventive actions to help slow the spread of germs. For one, people should avoid getting in contact with those who are sick. It is also important to wash hands often with soap and water. Lastly, when sneezing or coughing, make sure to cover the nose and mouth with a tissue to stop the spread of droplets that may have germs.