• By Deborah Balzer

Infectious Diseases A-Z: Flu vaccine reduces a child’s risk of death

May 8, 2017

a child having just received a vaccination shot

A recent Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) study shows that children who are vaccinated against influenza are significantly less likely to die from the flu. Dr. Gregory Poland, director of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group, says the study found that, across the five-year time period of the study, the flu vaccine provided 65 percent protection against death due to influenza and its complications in healthy kids, and 50 percent protection in kids with chronic medical problems. The protection against death was for each year the children were immunized.

"We’re looking at the most severe outcome of influenza, which is death," says Dr. Poland."Between 2010 and 2015, the CDC identified 358 kids in the U.S. who died of influenza–a completely preventable death" says Dr. Poland. "What they found was that, if these kids were vaccinated, we could protect most of them from flu-related death. The vaccine’s not a perfect vaccine, but we could prevent about 65 percent of those deaths."

Watch: Dr. Gregory Poland discusses influenza study.

Journalists: Broadcast-quality sound bites are in the downloads.

Message to parents.

Dr. Poland says the study reinforces the importance of immunization. He message to parents: "Even though you have a young, healthy kid, and even though we didn’t have flu vaccines when you were a kid and you survived it, it doesn’t mean that everybody’s going to. And this is particularly a problem for kids who have asthma, heart problems, diabetes - all of which are more common in our society than when we were kids."

There have been more than 80 pediatric deaths attributed to influenza in the 2016-2017 season. The CDC recommends everyone over 6 months, with rare exemption, be vaccinated yearly.

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