A study conducted by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) found that children who are vaccinated against the flu are less likely to die from the disease than children who aren’t vaccinated. The researchers found that although vaccinated kids can still get sick, they have a lower risk of dying from the flu.
The researchers looked at over 300 cases of children who died from the flu. The cases occurred during flu season, and the study found that most of the kids had not been vaccinated against the flu.
The research was conducted after the CDC found that pediatric deaths associated with influenza had risen in unvaccinated children since 2004. The study was published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
CDC says influenza deaths occur yearly depending on severity of flu season
Brendan Flannery, study’s lead author and epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stated that some influenza-related deaths in children could be prevented with vaccination.
“In the United States, annual influenza vaccination of children is recommended to reduce adverse health impacts of influenza and prevent severe complications,” wrote the researchers on the paper. “Though uncommon, influenza-associated deaths among children occur annually, with varying incidence depending on the severity of the influenza season.”
To conduct the study, the researchers looked at 291 kids who died between July 1, 2010, and June 30, 2014. The children studied ranged from 6 months to 17 years old at the time of their deaths. All of the subjects had been diagnosed with influenza before their death or during the autopsy.
The study based on information provided by the National Immunization Survey-Flu, the National Health Interview Survey and the MarketScan Commercial Claims and Encounters database. The vaccination status of the children studied was determined by reviews from the child’s medical records, health care provider information, parental reports or coroner’s report.
Children with high-risk medical conditions need vaccination the most
The study found that only 26 percent of the children who died from influenza had been vaccinated before their flu diagnosis. The research found that of the children studied 153 had high-risk medical conditions like asthma, blood disorders or heart disease. These pre-existing medical conditions increased the risk of influenza complications that led to hospitalization and death. Among the 153 children with medical conditions, 31 percent of them had been vaccinated against the virus.
Researchers noted that although it is uncommon for children to die from the flu, several cases occur yearly. The number of cases also spiked depending on the severity of the flu season. The CDC researchers explained that in the 2011-2012 flu season 37 children died from the virus, whereas in the 2009 flu pandemic over 358 children died.
The research found that the influenza vaccine reduced the risk of death from the illness by half among children with high-risk conditions, and by over two-thirds among children without high-risk conditions.
“Results of this study suggest that vaccination reduced the risk of influenza-associated deaths among children and adolescents and add to the evidence of benefits of influenza vaccination for children,” wrote researchers. “Annual vaccination is an important strategy to prevent influenza and influenza-associated complications and deaths.”
The study was the first ever conducted to investigate influenza or influenza-related deaths among children and adolescents. The researchers stretched on the importance of annual vaccination, especially for those who have underlying high-risk medical conditions. Although they found that children with high-risk conditions were vaccinated more than children who didn’t have medical problems, the number was still very small.
Injected vaccine is preferable when protecting children
In September 2016, the CDC conducted research that found that the nasal spray version of the flu vaccine did not protect children against some strains of the virus that were the most prominent strains during the last three flu seasons. In that study, the CDC found that among children 2 to 17 years old who received the nasal spray version of the vaccine, the vaccine was 3 percent effective during the 2015-2016 influenza season, while the injected vaccine had a 63 percent of effectiveness.
The CDC explained that children with high-risk conditions should get the injected version, as should pregnant women. Pregnant women have a high risk of complications related to influenza, and they can safely receive a flu shot at any point during their pregnancy. Receiving the flu shot would also provide protection for infants during their first six months of life.
Flu outbreaks vary depending on the region and time of the year, and the CDC recommends that everyone should receive the flu shot as soon as it is available in their community, which is sometime around August and September. However, most clinics and stores have the vaccine available year-long. The flu vaccine provides six to eight months of protection, according to the CDC.
Source: Live Science