Flu Vaccine Helps Protect Kids From Major Illness

Flu vaccine in children effective at preventing admission to pediatric intensive care units and serious complications

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) For most kids, the flu means missed days from school and bad symptoms, but for others it can spell hospital time. According to a new study, there may be a way to keep many of these kids out of the hospital.

This new study found that children who received the flu vaccine were less likely to be admitted to an intensive care unit.

"Talk to your doctor about vaccinations."

According to the authors of this new study, which was led by Jill M. Ferdinands, PhD, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Influenza Division in Atlanta, Georgia, most children hospitalized for influenza require standard care, but in some cases, life-threatening complications can occur, requiring the patients to be sent to an intensive care unit. This often occurs in children with pre-existing chronic medical issues.

The researchers aimed to explore the effectiveness of the influenza vaccine at protecting children from admission to pediatric intensive care units (PICUs) due to illness with the flu.

Dr. Ferdinands and team looked at children between the ages of 6 months and 17 years old who were admitted to 21 different pediatric intensive care units across the US during the 2010 to 2011 and 2011 to 2012 flu seasons.

The researchers identified 216 participants who had acute severe respiratory illness and were admitted to a PICU.

Of these patients, 44 tested positive for the influenza. These patients had an average age of 4.3 years old and only 18 percent were vaccinated.

Of all the patients admitted to a PICU, 55 percent had at least one underlying chronic medical condition, including respiratory and neuromuscular issues.

Dr. Ferdinands and team estimated that the vaccine was 74 percent effective at preventing admission to PICUs. In other words, when compared to unvaccinated children, children who were vaccinated were 74 percent less likely to have life-threatening complications from the flu.

“These study results underscore the importance of an annual flu vaccination, which can keep your child from ending up in the intensive care unit,” said Alicia Fry, MD, a medical officer from CDC’s Influenza Division explained in a press release. “It is extremely important that all children – especially children at high risk of flu complications – are protected from what can be a life-threatening illness."

The study involved a fairly low number of flu-positive PICU cases, and further research is needed to confirm these findings.

The study was published online March 26 in the Journal of Infectious Diseases. One study author reported receiving travel support from the pharmaceutical company Sanofi for an unrelated project, and no other conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
March 27, 2014
Last Updated:
March 27, 2014