Record Number of Kids Expected to Get Flu Vaccine This Year

Flu vaccination rates among children are expected to hit an all-time high this season, and parents who plan to vaccinate themselves are much more likely to vaccinate their young children against the flu, new research finds. However, only half of high-risk adults plan to get the recommended flu vaccination.

According to the latest report from the C.S. Mott Childrens Hospital National Poll on Childrens Health, 65 percent of parents plan to have their young children those up to 5 years of age vaccinated against the flu during the 2007-08 season. Nearly all parents polled who plan to get the flu vaccine themselves also intend to have their young children vaccinated.

Matthew M. Davis, MD, MAPP, director of the National Poll on Childrens Health, says this planned vaccination rate represents a significant increase from the 47 percent of parents who reported that their young children got the flu vaccine in 2006-07.

Our results show that the country is doing a good job in terms of getting the youngest children vaccinated against influenza. The Centers for Disease Control and Preventions message is clearly getting across to parents that children in this particular age group should be getting the flu vaccine, says Davis, associate professor of general pediatrics and internal medicine at the U-M Medical School, and associate professor of public policy at the U-M Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

Beginning this flu season, the CDC has 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 CDC also recommends that elderly persons and younger adults with chronic diseases receive the flu vaccine.

To find out if more parents plan to get their children vaccinated against the flu this year, the National Poll on Childrens Health, in collaboration with Knowledge Networks Inc., conducted a national online survey in August 2007. The poll asked adults about their flu vaccination plans for themselves and their children. As part of the poll, parents were informed either that the CDC now recommends flu vaccine for all children 6 months up to 5 years old, or that children younger than 5 years are twice as likely to need to be hospitalized for the flu as older children.

The survey was administered to a random sample of 2,060 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.

Based on survey results, Davis says the CDCs message about the importance of vaccinating children ages 6 months to 5 years is clearly getting across. The poll found that nearly two out of three households plan on vaccinating their children in that age group against flu this coming season, a substantial increase from previous years. The poll also revealed that planned vaccination rates for 2007-08 were even higher for children ages 0 to 5 with chronic conditions (73 percent).

The poll also showed that among parents whose children did not receive the flu vaccine in 2006-07, 32 percent plan to vaccinate their children, 0-5 years, against the flu this season. Additionally, 95 percent of parents who plan to get the flu vaccine themselves intend to have their children vaccinated. Even among parents who do not plan on getting the flu vaccine themselves, 45 percent say they plan to vaccinate their children in 2007-08.

Still, there are some parents who do not plan to vaccinate their children against the flu this season. The No. 1 reason for not getting their children vaccinated: 39 percent say they believe their children are healthy and dont need the flu vaccine. Another 27 percent of parents felt a flu vaccine was not necessary because there are medications available to treat the flu, should their child become sick. Says Davis, Evidently some parents feel that their children are healthy and dont need flu vaccine. However, what some parents may not recognize is how quickly influenza can become a serious illness, even for previously healthy children.

Beyond asking parents about their plans for vaccination for themselves and their children, the poll also sought to learn more about anticipated vaccination rates among elderly people and adults with chronic health conditions.

The poll revealed the more than half of all adults with chronic conditions and 85 percent of adults over age 65 plan to get the flu vaccine this season.

With more high-risk adults and record numbers of children planning to get vaccinated against the flu, many may be wondering if there will be enough vaccine to go around.

The CDC estimates that there are going to be as many as 132 million doses of flu vaccine available in the 2007-08 flu season, says Davis. Based on results from our national poll, we estimate that at least 115 million people will be looking for flu vaccine doses. Therefore, we expect the supply of influenza vaccine this year to be sufficient.

The best way to protect yourself and your family against the flu is to get a flu shot or the nasal vaccine recommended for healthy people ages 5 to 49 that is now available. In September, the FDA licensed the nasal flu vaccine for children ages 2 to 5. For people who havent gotten their vaccine yet and for some people who cant get the vaccine because theyve had a reaction to it in the past, I always recommend good hand-washing practices or the use of hand sanitizer throughout the flu season to protect against the flu, notes Davis.

Source: U-M Health System