The 2012-2013 flu season is beginning to wind down from a moderately severe season. Sadly, according to the CDC, 105 children died this season from the flu. And a preliminary review of the data by the CDC found that 90% of those children who died were not vaccinated for this season’s flu. In case that wasn’t clear, over 90 children died from influenza, a vaccine-preventable disease.
This review by the CDC indicated that 60 percent of deaths occurred in children who were at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications, but 40 percent of the children, who had died, had no recognized chronic health problems. The proportions of pediatric deaths occurring in children who were unvaccinated and those who had high-risk conditions are similar to what the CDC has observed in previous flu seasons.
Earlier this flu season, the CDC had strongly recommended that children get the flu vaccine, and those who had never been vaccinated for the flu before, get two doses of the vaccine. And despite the various myths about the flu vaccine, it is extremely effective, it will not give a child the flu, and it has an incredibly high safety profile.
Many of us who discuss medicine know that every medical procedure involves a risk and a benefit. With the flu vaccine, there are few risks, and even those are minor. But the benefit is immense for children. Saving lives. And in my view of the world, saving even one life, one child, is worth it. Parents who don’t give the flu vaccine to their children put them at a small, but significant risk of severe complications to the flu, up to and including death. Maybe next year someone will read this article, and think, “I want to save my child’s life.” I can only hope.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Prevention and control of influenza with vaccines: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)–United States, 2012-13 influenza season. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2012 Aug 17;61(32):613-8. PubMed PMID: 22895385.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC Reports About 90 Percent of Children Who Died From Flu This Season Not Vaccinated. March 22, 2013.