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Flu Vaccine Cuts Children’s Hospitalization Rates

Update Date: Mar 28, 2014 10:03 AM EDT

Health experts have stated during every flu season that the vaccine is the best form of protection against the flu. Despite this and other efforts to encourage people older than six-months-old to get the shot, the vaccination rates for all age groups continue to be lower than ideal. In a new federal report, researchers presented more evidence for the flu vaccine. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu vaccine can effectively reduce a child's risk of being hospitalized due to the flu.

"These study results underscore the importance of an annual flu vaccination, which can keep your child from ending up in the intensive care unit," Dr. Alicia Fry, a medical officer in CDC's Influenza Division, said reported by FOX News. "It is extremely important that all children especially children at high risk of flu complications are protected from what can be a life-threatening illness."

This study examined the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 flu seasons. During these two seasons, there were 216 children from 21 pediatric intensive care units throughout the country. The children were between six-months-old and 17-years-old. The researchers collected information on the children's vaccination status.

Fry's team reported that out of all the children, 44 had influenza. 55 percent of the children who suffered from a life-threatening situation exacerbated by the flu had at least one underlying chronic health condition. These conditions increase children's risk of complications tied to the flu. The remaining 172 children were grouped as the influenza-negative controls. On top of this sample set, the team included 93 children from the community who were not hospitalized. This group acted as the community controls.

Out of the flu-ridden children, only 18 percent had been fully vaccinated against the flu. In the influenza-negative group, 39 percent of the children were fully vaccinated. The vaccination rate for the community controls group was 51 percent. The team calculated that the flu vaccine was effective in reducing a child's risk of being admitted to the ICU for flu-related reasons by 74 percent. The researchers added that even though the flu vaccine does not prevent people from getting the flu, it could help reduce the severity of the flu when it does manifests.

The study, "Effectiveness of influenza vaccine against life-threatening RT-PCR-confirmed influenza illness in US children, 2010-2012," was published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

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