National Foundation for Infectious Diseases Supports New Policy Recommending Routine Pediatric Influenza Vaccination

BETHESDA, Md. -- The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) strongly supports new recommendations issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that call for all healthy infants and children 6 to 24 months of age to be immunized against influenza.

The new policy also stresses annual influenza immunization of children of all ages

with certain chronic medical conditions as well as household contacts,

out-of-home caregivers and health care professionals in contact with all

children younger than 24 months of age.

The new AAP recommendations strengthen earlier vaccine policy from an

encouragement to the level of a full immunization recommendation. The policy

reinforces the message to pediatricians, family practitioners and parents

about the importance of annual influenza protection for all healthy children 6

to 24 months of age and their contacts, as well as for all children 6 months

of age and older with high-risk medical conditions, such as asthma and

diabetes.

"The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases strongly supports AAP's

newly issued pediatric influenza recommendations," said William Schaffner, MD,

professor and chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt

University School of Medicine and an NFID board member. "NFID is committed to

educational outreach efforts in support of AAP's recommendation that will help

increase awareness about the importance of influenza immunization among

infants and children and increase vaccination rates."

AAP's new policy cites studies that show children of all ages with certain

chronic medical conditions as well as otherwise healthy children younger than

24 months of age are hospitalized for influenza infection and its

complications at high rates -- similar to those experienced by the elderly.

AAP's policy "recommends influenza immunization for healthy children between 6

to 24 months of age, for household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of all

children younger than 24 months of age and for healthcare professionals. To

protect these children more fully against the complications of influenza,

increased efforts are needed to identify all high-risk children and inform

their parents when immunization is due."

Influenza puts children 6 to 24 months of age at significant risk for

hospitalizations due to pneumonia, respiratory conditions, heart failure and

myocarditis. Influenza illness also increases the risk of a child developing otitis media, pneumonia, croup and sepsis, and is a risk factor for the complication of bacterial superinfection.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 120

influenza-related deaths occurred among children aged less than 18 years

during the 2003-2004 influenza season.

In an effort to increase pediatric influenza vaccination rates, NFID has

initiatives underway to help ensure infants and children receive the vaccine.

Last year, NFID issued a report, entitled Increasing Influenza Immunization

Rates in Infants and Children: Putting Recommendations Into Practice, which

details strategies to help pediatric and family practices set up successful

flu vaccination programs. Those strategies form the centerpiece of a national

NFID campaign to improve pediatric immunization rates in private practice,

managed care and public health settings. In addition, new practice resources

will soon become available to health care providers on how to implement

pediatric influenza vaccination clinics.

The official AAP policy statement can be accessed on the AAP Web site:

http://www.aap.org/policy/influenzafinal.pdf.

Full text of the NFID report on pediatric influenza is available on the

NFID Web site at http://www.nfid.org.

Founded in 1973, NFID is a non-profit organization dedicated to public and

professional educational programs about, and in support of, research into

causes, treatment, and prevention of infectious diseases.

Source: National Foundation for Infectious Diseases

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