The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changed the recommendations for pediatric influenza vaccination this year. Previously, the CDC recommended that children under 5 years old receive the flu vaccination. This year, the CDC recommends that all children between the ages of 6 months and 18 years be vaccinated.
Why the change? Although children less than 5 years are more frequently hospitalized for the flu, healthy school age children have higher rates of flu than other age groups. Recent research from Dr. John Brownstein and Dr. Kenneth Mandl, published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, indicates that adult visits to emergency departments for flu-like symptoms increase by 4 percent for every 1 % increase in the pediatric population. The Harvard-based epidemiologists tracked adult winter emergency department visits for flu-like symptoms for four years. They found that influenza struck first and struck hardest in zip codes that had more children.
The flu vaccine protects 75 to 90 percent of adolescents and young adults from the flu. It is as much as 30 % less effective in people over 65, according to some research. The hope is that preventing the illness in the younger population may lessen the incidence and the severity of the flu in the older population. Dr. Brownstein and Dr. Mandl are currently conducting research to see if this is indeed the case.
This season, which has already begun, the United States has a large supply of vaccine, between 143 million and 146 million doses. Even with the approximately 30 million additional doses needed to vaccinate all of the children, the United States will have an adequate supply. It is also recommended that the following groups receive vaccinations:
**Those over the age of 50
**Health care workers
**Women who will be pregnant over the flu season
**Anyone with a chronic illness, such as asthma or diabetes
**Anyone with a weakened immune system
**Caregivers for the elderly and the ill
And now…..virtually all children between the ages of 6 months and 18 years.
(Children with serious egg allergies should not be vaccinated.)
One interesting place to consider receiving the flu vaccination is at the polling place where the national election will be conducted. Through a government sponsored program called “Vote and Vax”, the influenza vaccine will be offered on Election Day at numerous polling places. A similar program conducted in 2006 almost 14,000 doses were administered, many to people who had never previously received the vaccine. So, take your children with you on election day. You can protect their health and their future at the same time.