This flu season is hitting children particularly hard, but new research shows that a flu shot is still well worth it for these youngest patients.
Getting vaccinated halved the risk of hospitalization for flu-related complications among young kids, scientists found.
The researchers analyzed vaccination data from more than 3,700 children, ages 6 months to 8 years, who were admitted to six hospitals in Israel during the winters of 2015-2016, 2016-2017 and 2017-2018.
Full flu vaccination reduced the risk of hospitalization for flu-related complications by 54%, according to the study by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel and the University of Michigan.
The study, published recently in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, supports guidelines in the United States and Israel that recommend up to two vaccine doses for children who have never been vaccinated or who previously received one dose.
The study authors added that their findings also back health organizations’ recommendations that children get a flu shot every year, preferably before the start of winter and especially during early childhood. Children under age 5 have a high risk of flu complications.
“Children vaccinated according to government guidelines are much better protected from influenza than those who only receive one vaccine,” said study co-leader Hannah Segaloff. She’s an epidemiologist in the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health, in Ann Arbor.
“Over half of our study population had underlying conditions that may put them at high risk for severe influenza-related complications, so preventing influenza in this group is critically important,” Segaloff explained in a BGU news release.
“Our results also showed that the vaccine was effective in three different seasons with different circulating viruses, reinforcing the importance of getting an influenza vaccine every year, no matter what virus strain is circulating,” Segaloff said.
Fueled by a strain of influenza that children may be especially vulnerable to, less than two months into this flu season 39 children have already died, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on the flu.