Vaccinating children against the influenza virus will help prevent many outpatient visits and hospitalizations due to the flu, according to a recent study published in the September issue of Pediatrics by a pediatrician at Brenner Childrens Hospital, part of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.
Less than 45 children between 6 months and up to 5 years old, need to be vaccinated to prevent one outpatient visit, said senior researcher Katherine Poehling, MD, MPH. Nationally if half of the U.S. children 6 months to 5 years of age were vaccinated, more than 2000 hospitalizations and up to 650,000 outpatient visits due to the flu could be prevented.
The flu commonly causes fever and respiratory illness among children. Each year, many children miss school and other activities due to sickness from the flu. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years receive the flu shot.
Flu shots usually become available in the fall and must be taken each year to be effective, Poehling said.
A flu shot is relatively easy to get and does not cause the flu she said. I would also encourage family members of young children and other persons receiving the flu shot to get the flu shot. This will help keep the family protected.
In this study, researchers found that one outpatient visit is prevented for every 12 to 42 children vaccinated, assuming a mild to moderate season and a modest match between the flu shot and circulating virus strains. If the match is better or the flu season is more severe, then more visits would be prevented, she said. This is a very conservative estimate. We only account for direct protection by the flu shot. We do not account for the indirect protection to other children and adults who are less likely to be exposed to the flu when persons around them are vaccinated. This tells us that flu shots are an effective means to prevent illness and doctor visits from the flu each winter.
This study was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.
Other researchers involved in the study include: Elizabeth Lewis, MD, at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children; Marie R. Griffin, MD, MPH, Kathryn M. Edwards, MD, and Yuwei Zhu, MD, all from Vanderbilt University Medical Center; and Peter G. Szilagyi, MD, MPH, from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.
Poehling completed her research while she was on the faculty of Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Source: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center