Unvaccinated Children More Likely to Die From the Flu

There can be health complications from influenza, from developing pneumonia to death, although the risk of fatality from having the flu is relatively low. A recent study of pediatric deaths from influenza from 2010 through 2014 showed that only 26 percent of those children had received flu vaccines.

In total, 358 children between the ages of 6 months to 17 years-old died in the United States as a complication of having had the flu in the years 2010 through 2014, as reported in the peer-reviewed medical journal Pediatrics. (http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2017/03/30/peds.2016-4244)

Of those total deaths, the researchers were able to obtain accurate influenza vaccination status for 291 of the children. In this group, 75 children, representing 26 percent of the total, had received a flu vaccine before becoming ill with the flu, then developed complications leading to death.

Of the 291 pediatric influenza deaths, a little more than half the children were identified as having underlying medical disorders that made the more at risk for developing complications from the flu. In this group, 31 percent had been vaccinated against the flu.

In general, the effectiveness rate of the flu vaccine against death was 65 percent. In children with underlying medical conditions that place them at higher risk of serious complications from influenza, including asthma, neurological, blood or endocrine disorders, the flu vaccine was noted to be 51 percent effective in preventing flu-related deaths.

The researchers reached the conclusion that use of the flu vaccine is associated with a decreased risk of flu-related deaths in children and adolescents. In the U.S., the annual flu vaccine is recommended to be given to all children ages 6 months and older. While it is known that the vaccine may sometimes not actually prevent someone from becoming ill with the flu, it is thought to decrease potential complications from having influenza due to the body having developed at least a partial resistance to the flu virus.

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