BEER-SHEVA, Israel — Children under the age of eight are recommended to receive two influenza vaccine doses in order to be properly protected against the flu in the U.S. While taking kids in to receive a flu shot on two different occasions can feel like a hassle, a new study illustrates just how much of a difference a full influenza vaccination can make. Researchers say that fully vaccinating children reduced the child’s risk of hospitalization due to flu-related complications by 54%.
This is one of the first studies anywhere in the world to investigate the effectiveness of childhood influenza vaccination and subsequent hospitalization risk. The study was a collaboration by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel and the University of Michigan.
Vaccination data regarding 3,746 child (ages six months to eight years old) hospitalizations across six different Israeli hospitals was reviewed for the research. All of those children had been tested for influenza at some point during the 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18 winter flu seasons.
The analysis revealed that a full flu vaccination decreased flu-related hospitalizations by more than half.
“Children vaccinated according to government guidelines are much better protected from influenza than those who only receive one vaccine,” says Dr. Segaloff, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, in a release. “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.
“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 strain is circulating,” he adds.
“Young children are at high risk of hospitalization due to influenza complications. 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,” comments co-author Prof. Mark Katz, M.D.
The majority of health organizations, including the Israel Ministry of Health, advise parents to vaccinate their children against the flu each and every year. Ideally, vaccination should take place before winter comes around.
“This study mirrors a previous study conducted at Clalit Institute where we found that flu vaccine reduces 40% risk of hospitalizations in pregnant women,” says Prof. Ran Balicer, a member of the BGU School of Public Health and director of the Clalit Research Institute. “It found that vaccination is the most effective way to prevent both the flu and hospitalization.”
The study is published in Clinical Infectious Disease.