Flu Vaccinations Recommended for Children Ages Two to Five
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices at CDC on Wednesday recommended that children ages two to five receive annual influenza vaccinations, the Washington Post reports. In addition, the committee recommended that "household contacts" of those children, such as parents and older siblings not covered by current CDC recommendations, also receive annual flu vaccinations (Brown, Washington Post, 2/23).
CDC, which follows the recommendations of the committee in most cases, currently recommends flu vaccinations for children ages six months to 23 months, pregnant women, individuals ages 65 and older and individuals with chronic health conditions (Washington Times, 2/23).
The committee based the new recommendations on recent research that indicates flu causes much of the use of health care and lost work time by the parents of children ages two to five, despite the small number of serious illnesses and deaths caused by the disease among those children. According to the committee, about 85 of every 1,000 four-year-old children receive physician care for flu annually. In addition, recent research indicates that flu vaccinations among children could help protect individuals at the highest risk for complications from the disease.
The new recommendations would add about 5.3 million children and 11.4 million household contacts to the group of individuals that CDC recommends receive annual flu vaccinations, according to Nicole Smith, an agency epidemiologist. The new recommendations would require about 20 million to 30 million additional doses of flu vaccine because previously unvaccinated children require two doses (Washington Post, 2/23).
According to USA Today, the new recommendations are "a small step toward a recommendation that everyone get the flu shot."
Greg Poland, a member of the committee and a representative of the Mayo Clinic, encouraged the committee to recommend annual flu vaccinations for all U.S. residents. He said, "I recognize we have supply limitations, but I think we should be bold," adding, "We make a recommendation that every kid wear a bicycle helmet, and there are not enough bicycle helmets."
Dale Morse, a committee member and a representative of the New York State Department of Health, said, "In the long term, I'm in favor of it. But if we go too fast ahead of the vaccine supply, there will be chaos."
The committee plans to address the issue at a meeting in June (Manning, USA Today, 2/23).