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Children's Vaccines Health Center

Flu Vaccine May Be Especially Good Idea for Kids

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In an editorial accompanying the two reports, Kenneth McIntosh, MD, and Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, write that the validity of studies like these hinges on the investigators' ability to distinguish the effects of the flu from those of another, more serious disease: respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). "Both studies, but particularly that of Izurieta and colleagues, leave considerable uncertainty about whether influenza is responsible for all, or even most, of the excess morbidity that is attributable to it," they write. And even if it is, they write, "at most, only 20% of the excess number of hospitalizations in winter were attributed to influenza infection." In other words, these studies do not prove that all of the excess hospital stays were due to the flu. Unfortunately, this leaves unanswered the real question: Is it worth the extra time and stress to give your child the flu vaccine?

McIntosh and Lieu have a valid point, says Neuzil. "We have to realize that these are estimates and must be careful how we use these data. We've identified the risk of a disease. Now we need to look at the second half of the equation: Is giving everyone a vaccine a benefit? That study still needs to be done," she says. "[But] parents should recognize that very young children can get sick from influenza. This is not a minor disease."

Vital Information:

  • New studies show that influenza is responsible for a significant number of hospitalizations and office visits among children -- especially those younger than 6 months old.
  • In spite of the findings, researchers are not clear as to whether all children should be vaccinated against the flu.
  • The studies were criticized by two experts for overestimating the effects of the flu.
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