2 doses of flu vaccine for kids cuts hospitalizations in half

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Fully vaccinating children reduces the risk of hospitalization associated with influenza by 54%, a new study shows.

In Israel, as in the United States, government guidelines recommend that children 8 or younger who have never received a vaccination, or who have only received one dose of flu vaccine, should receive two doses of vaccine.

Children vaccinated according to government guidelines have much better protection from influenza than those who only receive one vaccine, says Hannah Segaloff, a research fellow at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and lead author of the study in Clinical Infectious Disease.

“Over half of our study population had underlying conditions that may put them at high risk for severe influenza-related complications, so preventing influenza in this group is critically important,” she says.

“Our results also showed that the vaccine was effective in three different seasons with different circulating viruses, reinforcing the importance of getting an influenza vaccine every year no matter what virus is circulating.”

The retrospective study used data from Clalit Health Services, the largest health fund in Israel, to review the vaccination data of 3,746 hospitalizations of children 6 months to 8 years old at six hospitals in Israel. Researchers tested children for influenza over three winter seasons: 2015-16, 2016-17, and 2017-18.

Not only do the findings reveal that the flu vaccine reduced hospitalizations associated with the flu by 54%, but they show that giving two vaccine doses to children up to age 8 who have never received a flu vaccine or only received one dose previously works more effectively than administering one dose, in accordance with the Israel Ministry of Health’s recommendations.

“Young children are at high risk of hospitalization due to influenza complications,” says coauthor Mark Katz, a senior researcher at the Clalit Research Institute, the research arm of Clalit Health Services, and an adjunct associate clinical professor at the Ben Gurion University School of Public Health and Medical School for International Health.

“Children with underlying illnesses such as asthma and heart disease have an even greater risk of getting the complications. It is important to prevent influenza infections in these populations.”

The findings support health organizations’ recommendations, including the Israel Ministry of Health to vaccinate children against influenza every year, preferably before the onset of winter or early childhood. Children under 5 have a high risk of influenza complications.

“This study mirrors a previous study we conducted at Clalit Institute where we found that flu vaccine reduces 40% risk of hospitalizations in pregnant women,” says Ran Balicer, director of the Clalit Research Institute and professor at the BGU School of Public Health.

“It reaffirms that vaccination is the most effective way to prevent both the flu and hospitalization. We hope parents will be aware of these facts and make an informed decision about the importance of vaccinating their children.”

Source: University of Michigan