Many Kids Unprotected Against Flu, Poll Finds

Flu season is here. Are you, your children and your grandchildren vaccinated? According to a report released today by the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Childrens Hospital National Poll on Childrens Health, flu vaccination rates among young children and high-risk adults are much lower than expected across the country, leaving millions of Americans unprotected should a major flu outbreak occur.

Already 26 states have reported moderate flu activity. With an estimated 40 million doses of the flu vaccine still available, Matthew M. Davis, MD, MAPP, director of the National Poll on Childrens Health, encourages parents to act now to vaccinate themselves and their children against the flu.

Everyone wins when more people are vaccinated against the flu patients and entire communities are more protected, and hospitals need to admit fewer people with complications from the flu, says Davis.

Since the typical peak of influenza activity in the U.S. occurs in January or later, flu vaccination rates in December often offer a glimpse into how well protected the U.S. population is against a major flu outbreak.

National efforts to prevent an influenza epidemic in the U.S. hinge on broad flu vaccination of the public before flu season hits, Davis says. Americans have not vaccinated themselves as well as they said they were going to before the flu season began, and this means that the U.S. population is not as well protected against influenza as it could be.

Surprisingly, a National Poll on Childrens Health poll released in October reported that 65 percent of parents planned to have their young children those up to 5 years of age vaccinated against the flu during the 2007-08 season. Plus, nearly all parents who planned to get the flu vaccine themselves said they also intended to have their young children vaccinated. But results from the National Poll on Childrens Health report released today shows many parents did not follow through with those plans.

The latest poll conducted in December reveals that among households with children ages 5 and younger, there was only a 36 percent vaccination rate by December. And another 18 percent of households polled said they still planned to vaccinate their children this season. Flu vaccination rates among high-risk adults adults ages 50 and older and younger adults with chronic diseases are well-below national vaccine target levels as well.

Despite flu vaccination rates being lower than expected, there is still promising news: Flu vaccination rates among young children age 5 and younger are better than in previous years, and nearly one-half of parents polled in December reported that this season was the first time they had vaccinated their young children against the flu. In June the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended its flu vaccine recommendation to include all children ages 6 months to 5 years, a group nearly twice as likely as older children to be hospitalized for the flu.

The high number of households vaccinating their young children against flu for the first time demonstrates broad acceptance of new national recommendations for flu vaccination among healthy young children, notes Davis, associate professor of general pediatrics and internal medicine at the , and associate professor of public policy at the U-M Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

For its report, the National Poll on Childrens Health used data from a national online survey conducted in December in collaboration with Knowledge Networks Inc. The survey was administered to a random sample of 2,131 adults, ages 18 and older, who are a part of Knowledge Networks online KnowledgePanel. The sample was subsequently weighted to reflect U.S. population figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. About two-thirds of the sample were parents.

Report highlights

Almost one-half of parents who vaccinated their children against the flu said that this was the first time their children had received the vaccine.

Flu vaccination rates among young children, high-risk adults and seniors remain below national target levels that all people in these groups be vaccinated.

Source: U-M Health System