CDC: Missing Flu Shot Factor in Some Deaths in Children during Last Flu Season

Sep 16, 2011, 4:01 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

A nurse prepares a needle to give a patient a shot.

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that although children and teenagers rarely die from flu-related causes, reported deaths linked to the flu could have been prevented if the children had gotten flu vaccines.

The study reports on 115 flu-related deaths of people younger than 18, from September 2010 through August 2011.

Among the children who died, too many had not gotten flu vaccines. Since 2008, the CDC has recommended vaccination of all children 6 months and older. However, only 23 percent of the 74 children who died from flu and were eligible for the flu shot were fully vaccinated.

About half of the children who died last season were previously healthy and did not have a medical condition that would put them at risk for flu complications. Young age, though, is a risk factor for flu complications. Close to half of the children who died were younger than 5. Of the 94 children who died in a hospital or emergency department, only 50 percent were prescribed antiviral drugs, even though this is a key CDC flu recommendation as well.

This flu season brings some new items and updates to increase awareness of, and protection against, the flu:

  • This year a growing number of businesses are giving out vouchers that let employees get their flu shots for free at certain retail chains.
  • A change in the concentration of Tamiflu from 12 mg/mL to 6 mg/mL. The lower concentration of Tamiflu is less likely to become frothy when shaken, which helps to ensure an accurate measurement.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.