Pediatric Influenza Vaccination Rates Continue to Fall Short for 2018-2019 Flu Season


A new survey has found that 34% of US parents are not planning to have their child vaccinated against influenza.

Although influenza activity has remained low the first weeks of flu season in United States, more than one-third of parents surveyed in a nationwide poll indicated that their child is unlikely to receive the flu vaccine this season.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), during Influenza Season Week 45 (November 4 to November 10, 2018) there was a slight increase in the proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness. The proportion increased to 1.9% which is still below the national baseline of 2.2%. Influenza viral surveillance characterized the majority of influenza viruses as antigenically and genetically similar to virus components of the 2018—2019 influenza vaccine recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, indicating that this season’s influenza vaccine matches with circulating influenza A and B viruses.

In a new report published on November 19, 2018, by the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, of the 1977 parents surveyed, two-thirds reported that they would have their child vaccinated against the flu this season. Seventy-seven percent of parents in the poll reported that their child’s health care provider strongly or mostly recommended the influenza vaccine, while 21% said they did not recall the physician’s recommendation. Forty-eight percent of the parents said they usually follow the recommendation from their child’s health care provider, while 38% of parents said decisions on whether or not to vaccinate their child against the flu are based on what they read or hear. According to the poll, parents in the latter group were less likely to have their child vaccinated than parents who follow their health care provider’s recommendation.

During the 2017-2018 flu season, 57.9% of children ages 6 months through 17 years received an influenza vaccine, a slight decline from the previous flu season. Such reductions in vaccination coverage are a troubling trend and reflect an “echo chamber” in the messaging parents seek out about the influenza vaccine wrote the report’s authors.

“Child health providers are a critical source of information to explain the rationale for annual flu vaccination and to address parents’ questions about flu vaccine safety and effectiveness,” Sarah Clark, MPH, co-director of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, said in a recent statement. “Without clear guidance from the provider, parents may be left with misinformation, such as the suggestion that flu vaccine causes the flu.”

In additional news, vaccine developer Seqirus released new real-world data showing that its cell-based quadrivalent influenza vaccine was 36.2% more effective at preventing influenza illness than the standard egg-based quadrivalent vaccine. These data are consistent with information publicized last season by the US Food and Drug Administration.

In preparation for the upcoming National Influenza Vaccination Week, which begins on December 2, the CDC is reminding the public that individuals 6 months or older are recommended to receive the annual influenza vaccine. As part of the weeklong campaign, the CDC has invited health care providers to take part in a webinar on December 5, which will be focus on providing a better understanding of the severity and burden of the 2017-2018 flu season and why the influenza vaccine is so important.

Check back on Contagion® for the latest information from the webinar.

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