Kids' Risk of Dying from Flu Lower When Vaccinated

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Kids who are vaccinated against the flu can still get sick from the virus; vaccination does not provide perfect protection. However, vaccinated kids are still much less likely to die from the flu than children who are not vaccinated against the illness, according to a new study.

In the study, researchers looked at the cases of nearly 300 U.S. children who died from the flu over four flu seasons. Most of the children had not been vaccinated against the virus, the investigators found.

The new research suggests that some flu deaths in children could be prevented with vaccination, said Brendan Flannery, the study's lead author and an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [6 Flu Vaccine Myths]

In the study, the researchers looked at 291 children who died between July 1, 2010, and June 30, 2014. The children were between 6 months and 17 years old when they died. All had been diagnosed with the flu before their deaths or were diagnosed during autopsy, Flannery said.

Only 26 percent of the children who died had been vaccinated against the flu before they got sick from the virus, said the study, published today (April 3) in the journal Pediatrics.

The researchers noted that 153 children in the study had "high-risk" medical conditions — such as asthma, heart disease or blood disorders — that put these individuals at an increased risk of flu complications that can lead to hospitalizations or death. Among these children, 31 percent had been vaccinated against the flu, the study said.

Overall, the flu vaccine reduced the risk of death from the disease by half among the kids with high-risk conditions, and by nearly two-thirds among kids without such conditions, the researchers found. [5 Dangerous Vaccine Myths]

It's rare for children to die from the flu; however, cases do occur every year, according to the study. The incidence of such cases varies depending on the severity of the flu season. Since 2004, the number of children who have died from the flu has ranged from a low of 37 during the 2011-2012 flu season to 358 during a 2009 flu pandemic.

The new results support current recommendations for annual flu vaccinations for children ages 6 months and older, the study said. Moreover, the findings underscore the importance of giving children with high-risk conditions vaccines against the flu, because of the higher risk of flu-related complications and flu-related death among these children, the researchers said.

Originally published on Live Science.

Staff Writer