Editor's note:For the latest flu coverage, visit https://www.aappublications.org/collection/influenza.
Flu vaccines have reduced children’s visits to a doctor by 55% this season, according to interim estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The vaccine’s effectiveness was 45% for the overall population.
“Vaccination remains the best way to protect against influenza and its potentially serious complications,” authors wrote in today’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. “CDC continues to recommend influenza vaccination while influenza viruses are circulating in the community.”
The interim estimates are based on a study of 4,112 people. The data show for influenza B/Victoria, which was predominant in the early part of the season, the vaccine’s effectiveness is 56% for children ages 6 months through 17 years and 50% for the overall population.
Against influenza A(H1N1)pdm09, which has surged in recent weeks, the vaccine is 51% effective for children and 37% for the overall population.
The estimates come as 92 children and teens have died. About two-thirds of the deaths were linked to influenza B viruses. The death toll at this point in the season is higher than at the same time during the past 15 seasons except for the 2009 pandemic, according to the CDC.
Hospitalization rates for children also are higher than usual despite being average for the general population.
Overall, health officials estimate that 26 million people have gotten sick, 250,000 have been hospitalized and 14,000 have died this season.
Outpatient visits for flu have risen for four consecutive weeks. The CDC continues to recommend everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated. Physicians with high-risk patients who have contracted the virus should treat them promptly with antivirals.