Fact Check: Flu Vaccines Don't Protect Children

Forget what you have heard, here are the facts

Mostly false

The clinical efficacy of the annual flu vaccine is low because there are various influenza strains circulating around the world each year. 

But, the flu vaccine still protects the vast majority of children from a public health perspective. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed a total of 183 influenza-associated pediatric deaths during the 2017-2018 flu season. 

According to the CDC, approximately 80 percent of these pediatric deaths were unvaccinated children. 

Since influenza is so common, flu-related fatalities are not always listed on death certificates. 

To compensate for this reporting issue, the CDC uses statistical models, which are periodically revised, to make its estimates. 

Additional information on influenza-associated pediatric deaths including basic demographics, underlying conditions, bacterial co-infections, and place of death for the current and past seasons, is available on FluView Interactive

An influenza-associated death is defined for surveillance purposes as a death resulting from an illness that is clinically compatible with influenza that is confirmed by an appropriate laboratory test. 

Children, especially those who are under the age of 5 or those with a chronic health problem, have a higher risk of developing serious flu-related complications, according to the CDC. 

Globally, the World Health Organization reported that during 2017, 4.1 million (75% of all under-five deaths) occurred within the first year of life. 

The risk of a child dying before completing the first year of age was highest in the WHO African Region (51 per 1000 live births), over six times higher than that in the WHO European Region (8 per 1000 live births). 

Annual infant deaths have declined from 8.8 million in 1990 to 4.1 million in 2017. 

Influenza vaccination has been shown to reduce a child’s likelihood of dying from influenza by up to 60 percent.     

Since it takes about 2 weeks for antibodies to develop that protect against an influenza virus infection, it is best to get vaccinated as soon as possible. 

The CDC recommends everyone over 6 months of age get vaccinated by the end of October each year. 

There are various flu vaccines available for the 2018-19 season

If you have questions, it's best to speak with your doctor, nurse or pharmacists.