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Flu Shots: Not So Helpful for Kids?

Study Shows Flu-Related Doctor Visits Weren't Reduced Despite Vaccination

Vaccination Still Important

Schaffner says the study was well designed and rigorously carried out. But he worries that the message some will take from the finding is that vaccinating children against the flu is a waste of time.

"Some parents and even some pediatricians are going to ask if vaccinating young children is really worthwhile," he says. "My answer is: 'Absolutely yes.' It is important to point out that more times than not over the last 20 years we have had a very close match between the vaccine and circulating strains."

He points to research suggesting that only about 30% of eligible children get flu shots, and only about half to two-thirds of those vaccinated for the first time get the necessary booster shot.

"Adults have more exposure to real influenza and past vaccines than children, so it makes sense that children might not be as protected," he says.

For the first time this year, government health officials are recommending flu shots for all children over 6 months of age up until their 19th birthdays.

Schaffner says it looks like the upcoming flu season may be a particularly nasty one because new strains of influenza have been circulating in the Southern Hemisphere, where the flu season is ending.

"For the first time in a long time, all three virus strains in the vaccine are new," he says. "My crystal ball suggests that if these new strains are circulating, we may have a more serious influenza season that we have had in many years."

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