New Pediatric Vaccination Recommendations Seek to Protect Infants, Children and Close Contacts From Influenza

BETHESDA, Md. -- New pediatric influenza vaccination recommendations published today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) call for annual influenza vaccination for all infants and toddlers 6 through 23 months of age as well as household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children between birth and 2 years.

The new recommendations, published in the April 30, 2004 issue of CDC's Morbidity &

Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), agree with recommendations issued by the

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Family

Physicians (AAFP).

"Influenza is a highly contagious, easily transmitted disease and these

new recommendations will help prevent hospitalizations and even death among

infants and children 6 through 23 months of age as well as those who have

underlying medical conditions, such as asthma," says Margaret Rennels, MD,

professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and

chair of AAP's Committee on Infectious Diseases. "These children's household

contacts and out-of-home caregivers are also recommended to receive an annual

influenza vaccination. This includes siblings, grandparents and babysitters."

Recent studies show influenza-associated illness in children younger than

24 months of age leads to hospitalization rates similar to those among adults

65 years of age and older. During the 2003-2004 influenza season, CDC

reported more than 140 influenza-related deaths among children.

Influenza and pneumonia are among the top ten leading causes of death for

children ages one to four years. It puts children at significant risk for

hospitalizations due to pneumonia, fever, seizures and encephalitis. In addition, influenza increases the risk of a child developing otitis media, croup and sepsis.

Despite long-standing recommendations to provide influenza vaccine to all

children with an underlying medical condition, vaccination rates of high-risk

children remain low. For children with asthma, the most prevalent high-risk

condition, influenza vaccination rates are only 10 percent to 31 percent in any given

year -- the lowest immunization rate for any childhood vaccine. A new CDC

report estimates nine million U.S. children under age 18 have been diagnosed

with asthma at some point in their lives. A number of studies demonstrate

physicians do not yet employ effective strategies to improve influenza

vaccination rates.

"With these new recommendations, physicians and parents are encouraged to

prepare early for the upcoming influenza season rather than wait for the late

summer or fall," said William Schaffner, MD, professor and chairman of the

department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

and an NFID board member. "Health care providers are encouraged to order

vaccine now and plan pediatric influenza immunization programs to ensure their

practices are able to administer vaccine to patients and their direct

contacts. Parents should also contact their health care providers for more

information about immunizing their children against influenza."

Influenza Vaccination Recommendations

Beginning fall 2004, all children aged 6 through 23 months, as well as

household contacts and out-of-home caregivers for all children younger than 24

months of age, are recommended to receive an annual influenza vaccine.

Children under 9 years of age receiving flu vaccine for the first time will

need two doses, one month apart.

In addition to children 6 to 23 months of age, an annual influenza

vaccination continues to be strongly recommended for those children 6 months

of age and older who have the following underlying medical conditions:

* Asthma, cystic fibrosis or other lung disorders

* Diabetes

* Heart, kidney or liver disease

* Blood disorders, like sickle cell disease

* Immune suppression, such as HIV or AIDS

* Conditions requiring long-term aspirin therapy, immunosuppressive drugs

or steroids

NFID has national initiatives underway to help pediatricians and family

practitioners develop in-practice immunization programs and prepare for the

expansion of CDC's pediatric influenza vaccination recommendations. Last year

NFID issued a report, "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, NFID will soon unveil a new pediatric influenza vaccine

resource program, Kids Need Flu Vaccine, Too, to help physicians and healthcare providers integrate routine pediatric influenza vaccination into their

practices. The new program includes practice resources for planning and

implementing in-practice pediatric flu clinics, educational videos for health

care professionals and parents as well as educational materials for parents.

For more information about influenza, refer to the CDC and AAP Web sites

at www.cdc.gov and www.aap.org. To learn more about NFID's efforts to improve

pediatric immunization rates, visit the NFID Web site at www.nfid.org. This

pediatric influenza immunization initiative was made possible through an

unrestricted educational grant to NFID from Aventis Pasteur.

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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