Among infants aged 6 to 23 months, 45 percent were fully vaccinated
in the 2011-2012 flu season. While that far exceeds the 5 percent
vaccination rate in the 2002-2003 season, it still leaves many
infants and toddlers exposed to a virus that can lead to
hospitalizations, pneumonia and even death.
“We are half way there, but that’s not good enough,” said Dr.
Kathryn Edwards, a pediatric vaccine researcher at Vanderbilt
University in Nashville, Tennesee, who wasn’t involved in the study.
“We know that children less than two years of age have the most
influenza infections and have the most complications from influenza
infection in any age group, and we have to do a better job of
following up with parents to get all of these children vaccinated,”
The study by Tammy Santibanez of the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention in Atlanta and colleagues examined survey
data on vaccination rates over 10 flu seasons to see how many
children got fully immunized and assess variations based on race and
the number of required doses.
Full vaccination coverage in the last year of the study varied by
state, ranging from a low of about 24 percent in Mississippi to a
high of about 72 percent in Massachusetts, the researchers report in
the journal Pediatrics.
For full protection, U.S. children need two doses of vaccine during
the first season they receive shots. After that, one dose will
suffice in subsequent flu seasons.
For each year of the study, complete vaccination rates were
significantly higher for the children who only needed one dose than
for the kids who needed two doses, the study found.
In the last year of the study, among the subset of children who
needed two doses and got the first shot, about 64 percent also
received the second shot.
Over all 10 flu seasons, black and Hispanic children were less
likely to be fully immunized than white kids, the study also found.
One limitation of the study is that the data relies on phone surveys
of parents that are then confirmed by immunization providers, a
process that might exclude children who live in households without
phones or who lack complete vaccination records, the authors note.
The CDC didn’t respond to requests for comment on the study.
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Despite the limitations, the findings suggest that doctors and
public health officials still need to do a better job of outreach
when it comes to early childhood flu vaccinations, the authors
It may be very difficult to reach the small minority of parents who
simply object to childhood vaccinations, but there are probably
another 20 percent of parents who intend to get the shots for their
children and simply forget or fail to return for the second dose
when needed, said Dr. Paul Offit, an infectious disease specialist
at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who wasn’t involved in
“If the bar is set at two doses, which is what you need the first
time you get it, then unfortunately there are going to be some kids
who don’t end up fully vaccinated even when their parents do bring
them in for that first dose,” Offit said.
To the extent possible, doctors might try using text messages,
emails or phone calls to remind parents when it’s time to come in
for flu shots, and to give a second round of reminders if that
follow-up dose is needed during a baby’s first flu season, Edwards
“We aren’t going to get everybody, but we can get a lot more kids if
we can figure out how to make it easier for parents with reminders
and with clinic hours that they can actually get to easily, whether
it’s walk-in hours or nights and weekends,” Edwards said. “We can do
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/1RYKmBJ Pediatrics, online February 2, 2016.
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