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A report issued today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that only 4.4 percent of the nations children aged 6 to 23 months were fully vaccinated against influenza during the 2002-03 influenza season, the first season CDC encouraged influenza vaccination for healthy children. This first CDC report on childhood influenza vaccination coverage also estimates that only 7.4 percent of the children aged 6 to 23 months had received at least one dose of the vaccine.
"Too few young children are protected against influenza, which for this age group, can be a very serious illness, said Julie Gerberding, MD, MPH, director of the CDC. This season, CDC not only encourages flu shots for young children, we recommend them. Were urging more parents to get their children vaccinated against influenza because annual flu shots will reduce cases of influenza and its complications, decrease hospitalizations, and save lives."
To be fully vaccinated, previously unvaccinated children should receive two doses. Children who have received any dose of influenza vaccine in previous years require only one annual dose.
Recent studies show that children less than two years old, even healthy children, are more likely than older children to be hospitalized with serious complications if they get the flu. Because children younger than two are at increased risk for influenza-related hospitalization, vaccination is also recommended for their family members, other people living or working in their household and childcare providers. It is particularly important that people who are contacts of children younger than six months be vaccinated because influenza vaccination is not approved for children younger than six months of age.
During the 2003-2004 influenza season, CDC received reports of 152 flu-related deaths among children (under age 18) from 40 states. The vast majority of these children were not adequately vaccinated against flu. Almost half of the children had an underlying medical condition, but 40 percent were previously healthy.
The report being released today is based on data from the 2003 National Immunization Survey (NIS) and provides a baseline estimate for influenza vaccination for young children. The NIS is an ongoing survey that provides estimates of vaccination coverage among children. Childhood influenza vaccination status will now be routinely collected as part of the NIS and the data will be used to assess and report childhood influenza vaccination coverage among children in the United States.
For the full MMWR article, including state coverage rates, visit www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5337a1.htm.