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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

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Flu Shots: What's Your Excuse?

Despite Huge Supply, Too Few Kids & Adults Get Flu Vaccine


To warn parents about the risk of flu for young children, the CDC has posted a heart-wrenching video on YouTube. The video features interviews with parents who did not vaccinate their children -- and then watched them die of the flu.

"How does this happen? It’s not supposed to," says Julie, one of the parents in the video. "Here we had this beautiful, perfect, healthy baby boy, and all of a sudden within a day he’s gone."

The CDC finds that parents usually don't start looking for flu shots for their kids until late October. Children who haven't had a flu shot before need two doses four weeks apart for full immunity. Most parents who do this come in for their kids' second shot after Thanksgiving and before Dec. 10.

A lot of parents think they've gotten through flu season by Christmas and don't bring their kids in for a second shot. That's a mistake. CDC data show that over 80% of the time, peak flu season doesn't arrive until January or later. And over 60% of the time, peak flu season doesn't hit until February or later.

How well does flu vaccination work? The CDC says that in terms of preventing lab-confirmed influenza, the vaccine is nearly always over 50% effective, and as much as 90% effective in healthy adults.

Last year, two of the three flu strains in the vaccine did not match the flu viruses that actually circulated. Yet early data suggest the vaccine was 44% effective.

Analysis of flu strains circulating at low levels in the U.S. and at higher levels in the Southern Hemisphere suggest this years flu vaccine has exactly the right match for all three flu strains. The only possible sign of trouble is a small number of influenza B strains that don't match the vaccine strain, but far more of the circulating B flu bugs are a good match.

The CDC data appear in three separate reports in the Sept. 26 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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