A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study published Monday in Pediatrics is the first of its kind to show that flu vaccination significantly reduced a child’s risk of dying from influenza. The study, which looked at data from four flu seasons between 2010 and 2014, found that flu vaccination reduced the risk of flu-associated death by half (51 percent) among children with underlying high-risk medical conditions and by nearly two-thirds (65 percent) among healthy children. The study findings underscore the importance of the recommendation by CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics that all children 6 months and older get an annual flu vaccine.
Researchers estimated how effective the vaccine was at preventing flu-related deaths by comparing the vaccination status of the children who died from flu to comparison groups of children. The comparison groups were obtained from two national surveys and a database of commercial insurance claims.
"Every year CDC receives reports of children who died from the flu. This study tells us that we can prevent more of these deaths by vaccinating more," said Brendan Flannery, PhD, lead author and epidemiologist in the Influenza Division. "We looked at four seasons when we know from other studies that the vaccine prevented flu illness, and we found consistent protection against flu deaths in children."
During the study period, 358 laboratory-confirmed, flu-associated child deaths were reported to CDC. Of the reported pediatric deaths with known vaccination status (291), only one in four children (26 percent) had been vaccinated.
Since the 2004-2005 season, flu-related deaths in children reported to CDC during regular flu seasons ranged from 37 (during 2011-2012) to 171 (during 2012-2013). During the current flu season, 61 pediatric deaths have been reported to CDC as of March 25, 2017. More information about pediatric deaths is available in an interactive format at https://gis.cdc.gov/GRASP/Fluview/PedFluDeath.html.