THE FLU: Researchers Recommend Considering Routine Shots for Kids
Citing two studies that show the flu to be "surprisingly common and often dangerous" in children, researchers are recommending that routine flu shots be considered for kids, but "stopped short of a flat recommendation." These suggestions are based on data published in today's New England Journal of Medicine (Johnson, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/27). The first report, conducted by the CDC, found that children under two years of age, without "traditional risk factors for flu complications," such as asthma, were 12 times as likely to be hospitalized for respiratory illness during the flu season than children between ages 5 and 7. The second study -- conducted by Dr. Kathleen Neuzil, a flu specialist at the University of Washington, and colleagues at Nashville, Tenn.'s Vanderbilt University -- examined 19 years of data and found 186 hospitalizations for every 10,000 children under 15 could possibly be attributed to the flu. Also, more than 100 occurred in infants under six months. Dr. Steven Black, vaccine expert for Kaiser Permanente and co-author of one of the studies, said, "I think people have come to recognize that children are an important reservoir of influenza." Noting that the virus spreads rapidly among children, he added, "By immunizing the children, we could reduce the circulation of the virus amongst the kids and older people" (Marcus, Denver Rocky Mountain News, 1/27). Neuzil, lead author of the Washington-Tennessee study, said that the anatomy and immune systems of young children probably increase their risks of developing flu complications (Rubin, USA Today, 1/27). But other experts are concerned about the cost, safety and logistics of adding another vaccine to the recommended list of 16 (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/27). One doctor said, "We're already giving so many immunizations. I'm not really convinced we have enough information to justify adding this one" (Johnson, AP/Contra Costa Times, 1/27).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.